White House Watch: Buttigieg Makes Town Hall Pitch To Voters

Photo: Pete Buttigieg, via Facebook

Appearing on CNN over the weekend, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg revealed more of his political journey while drawing clear contrasts between his leadership style and that of the Trump-Pence administration.  

Buttigieg, exploring a presidential campaign, took questions from a studio audience in Austin, Texas on Sunday. CNN anchor Jake Tapper moderated the town hall, asking the 37-year-old Buttigieg (Buddha-Judge) how he pronounced his name.

“Either way it gets you there,” the candidate replied, adding, “Back home they just call me Mayor Pete.”

Buttigieg’s exploratory committee is tasked with collecting 65,000 donors in 20 states to qualify for the Democratic party debates. At Sunday night’s town hall, Buttigieg was asked what makes a small town mayor think he should be president.

“We would be better served if Washington started to look like our best-run cities and towns rather than the other way around,” Buttigieg said. A lieutenant in the Navy Reserves, Buttigieg said he comes from a “strong mayor” system in South Bend, Indiana.  

Buttigieg noted he has more executive level experience in government than President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and also more military service than both despite being significantly younger.

“I like him,” said Kathy Russo, who hosted a town hall watch party at her house in Portland, Oregon. “I gave him $10 tonight. He seems personable and reasonable.”

Around a dozen people gathered around Russo’s television set to hear Buttigieg’s pitch. The mayor is the only gay candidate in a large Democratic field.

“I think the whole point of politics is everyday life,” Buttigieg said, explaining that his marriage is the most important part of his life.”

“I married a teacher so I married up,” Buttigieg said. “That intimate thing in our life exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case, the Supreme Court – in a 5-4 decision – ruled same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marriage. Buttigieg married his spouse Chasten last summer in an Episcopal ceremony in South Bend, Indiana.

Buttigieg referenced his faith when asked about the vice president.

“[Pence’s] interpretation of scripture is pretty different than mine to begin with. My understanding of scripture is that it’s about protecting the stranger, and the prisoner, and the poor person, and the idea of welcome,” Buttigieg said. “His has a lot more to do with sexuality and a certain view of rectitude. But even if you buy into that, how could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the pornstar presidency? Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump?”

At Sunday evening’s town hall Buttigieg also called for an end to the “war on transgender Americans” and for Congress to pass a federal equality act that prevents firings based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In remains to be seen if Buttigieg can secure a spot on the debate stage. Five U.S. senators have already declared their intentions to seek the Democratic party’s nomination. Last week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 nominee, ended speculation she would run again. U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also withdrew from consideration last week.

LGBT Field Notes: Long Beach, California Mayor Robert Garcia has endorsed U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California for president. In a statement on March 7, Garcia, a gay man, said Harris’ “fighting spirit and bold vision is the perfect antidote to the chaos of this current administration.”