SOUTH BEND, IN — Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially announced his candidacy for president of the United States Sunday afternoon in South Bend, Indiana. Crowds began to gather as early as 8 a.m. for the 2:30 p.m. announcement, with thousands of supporters packing into the town’s former Studebaker automaker factory.
If elected, Buttigieg would not only be the first openly gay president but also the country’s youngest president at 37 years old.
The factory building where the event took place stood as a symbol for the Buttigieg campaign and the triumphs of his mayorship. Studebaker shut its doors in 1963, leaving a devastated economy in its wake. Now, the former factory is being rebuilt as a hub for regional tech and business startups.
Buttigieg was born and raised in South Bend. He is Harvard-educated, a Rhodes scholar and an Afghanistan War veteran. After completing his tour overseas, he decided to return home to South Bend.
As mayor, Buttigieg has prided himself on his efforts to revitalize the town’s economy. He recognized South Bend would never have another Studebaker and worked to seek out other forms of revenue. He said instead of trying to return to the way things were he decided to look to the future.
“There is no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word ‘again’,” Buttigieg said.
A number of other mayors came out to support Buttigieg at the event, including Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, and Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, California, who each delivered opening remarks. In their eyes, a small-town mayor is exactly who the country needs in the Oval Office.
Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, also came out in support Buttigieg, a notable move in a primary that will included two Texas-based politicians. Adler refered to him as “a Mayor’s Mayor.”
“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president who knows that freedom is sacred and sometimes ‘freedom to,’ like freedom to be who you are and to love who you want is as important as freedom from someone you fear?” Adler said.
Buttigieg announced his campaign would be built upon the pillars of freedom, security and democracy.
“Security means cyber security,” Buttegieg said. “It means election security. It means keeping us safe in the face of violent white nationalism rearing its ugly head. Let’s pick our heads up to face what might be the greatest security of our time — climate change and climate destruction.”
Buttigieg argued as a millennial he is the only candidate who will be alive to see the impacts of global climate change. He issued a challenge to Republican politicians.
“If you don’t like our plans on climate, fine, show us yours,” Buttigieg said.
Public Policy senior CJ Meyer traveled from Ann Arbor to see the event.
“The Democratic field is all within the same ballpark when it comes to policy,” Mayer wrote in an email interview. “What distinguishes Mayor Pete is his messaging and his language. He has a unique ability to frame policy challenges, such as climate change and healthcare, and American values, such as freedom and religion, in a way that no Democrat has in decades. Between his framing abilities and his impressive experience, he represents for both urgency and action, and he’s a new type of candidate.”
Buttigieg has gained momentum over the past months, already accruing nearly $7 million dollars in campaign donations but said there is still work ahead in a crowded Democratic field.
“The horror show in Washington is mesmerizing, it’s all consuming, but starting today we’re gonna change the channel,” Buttigieg said.