South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg launches presidential exploratory committee

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg launches presidential exploratory committee
© Getty Images

Peter Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., announced early Wednesday that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for president, becoming the latest Democrat to wade into the 2020 race.

Buttigieg, 37, posted a video in which he touts the "comeback" of South Bend during his time as mayor, and appears to swipe at President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE's slogan of "Make America Great Again."

ADVERTISEMENT

"There is no again in the real world," he says in the video. "We can’t look for greatness in the past. Right now our country needs a fresh start."

"There’s a new generation of voices emerging in our country, walking away from the politics of the past and ready to deliver on our priorities," he adds. "There is no again the real world. That’s not a bad thing. We’re ready for a fresh start."

The announcement from Buttigieg, who is gay, was celebrated by LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization focused on electing LGBTQ people to office.

“An openly LGBTQ elected official forming a presidential exploratory committee is a historic and powerful moment for the LGBTQ community and the entire country," Annise Parker, president and CEO of the group, said in a statement.

The Republican National Committee issued a statement knocking Buttigieg over South Bend's crime rate and infrastructure.

"His bid isn't just bad news for residents, it's more proof that Democrats are about to endure the most crowded, divisive, and contentious primary in history," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement.

Buttigieg, who previously served in the Navy, was first elected mayor in 2011 at age 29. He became the youngest person to serve as the mayor of a city with a population of more than 100,000 when he took office in 2012, and he won a second term in 2015.

He unsuccessfully ran for Democratic National Committee chairman in 2017, though the bid helped raise his national profile. He fueled speculation about a potential presidential bid when he announced late last year he would not seek another term.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Wednesday, Buttigieg sought to play up his middle-class credentials and experience governing at the local level, saying that city government is “maybe the only level of government in the U.S. that’s really functioning right now.”

“A lot’s been said about my age, but also my experience,” Buttigieg said. “At least of the people who have jumped in, I’m the only one who is living a middle-class lifestyle in a middle-class neighborhood in middle America.”

He acknowledged that he isn’t the “most established” or “well-funded” candidate in the Democratic primary field.

But in talking up his credentials as a Navy veteran and the mayor of a midsize Midwestern city, Buttigieg is seeking carve out a path to the Democratic nomination in a field that is expected to draw political heavyweights, like former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Susan Rice: Trump picks Putin over troops 'even when it comes to the blood of American service members' Does Donald Trump even want a second term? MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane Neil Young opposes use of his music at Trump Mount Rushmore event: 'I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux' MORE (I-Vt.).

He said that he supports the concept of “Medicare for all,” the proposed single-payer health care system that has become a rallying point for progressives.

But he outlined a vision of more incremental change, arguing that voters are “not necessarily ideological” in their motivations and that few toe their party line completely.

“There are a lot of people in Indiana that voted for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases History will judge America by how well we truly make Black lives matter What July 4 means for November 3 MORE and Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceCongress gears up for battle over expiring unemployment benefits Secret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Overnight Health Care: Experts fear July 4 weekend will exacerbate coronavirus spread | Texas Gov. Abbott will require masks in most of the state | Fauci warns: 'We are not going in the right direction' MORE and Donald Trump and me,” Buttigieg said. “So what that shows you is that people are looking for somebody who’s concerned about them and are looking for a lot of other things that have a complicated set of overlapping interests.”

In launching an exploratory committee, Buttigieg signaled that he will forgo a run for governor of Indiana in 2020 — a race in which he had been floated as a potential contender.

Buttigieg joins a growing field of Democrats who have formed exploratory committees or expressed intent to run for president, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage Warnock raises almost M in Georgia Senate race in second quarter MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (D-N.Y.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSusan Rice sees stock rise in Biden VP race Jaime Harrison seeks to convince Democrats he can take down Lindsey Graham Senators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents MORE (D-Calif.), as well as Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D-Hawaii) and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

Updated at 11:45 a.m.