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 TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation 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 BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings 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 ObamaWhat are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? Krystal Ball: Patrick's 2020 bid is particularly 'troublesome' for Warren Deval Patrick: Biden 'misses the moment' in 2020 campaign MORE and Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceRNC to host winter meetings at Trump's Doral resort Two dead, at least four others hospitalized in Southern California high school shooting Human rights: Help or hindrance to toppling dictators? 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 Ann WarrenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Following school shooting, Biden speaks out: 'We have to protect these kids' MORE (D-Mass.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMaloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process MORE (D-N.Y.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement MORE (D-Calif.), as well as Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardPanel devolves over new Russian accusation about Tulsi The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates MORE (D-Hawaii) and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

Updated at 11:45 a.m.