Pete Buttigieg ends historic campaign

Jeffrey Sidelsky © 2019, IG: mojosheak

On March 1, Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign for President. Buttigieg’s run was historic: he was the first out gay candidate of a major party, the youngest candidate of any party and the first out gay candidate to win primary delegates for a major party’s presidential nomination. Mayor of the sixth-largest city in Indiana, an Afghanistan war veteran and a Rhodes scholar who speaks several languages, Buttigieg brought a disparate group of voters of all ages and economic strata together with his center-left message of inclusion and unity against the Trump administration, as well as his strong stances for climate action and gun control.

Buttigieg rose steadily in the polls throughout the first half of 2019 to become a top-tier contender, knocking four senators, two former Congress members, two governors, a mayor and a former HUD secretary out of the race. He won the Iowa caucus, came in only one point behind Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire and came in third in the Nevada caucus to catapult briefly to the position of frontrunner. But it was Buttigieg’s limited support among Black and Latinx voters that led to a disappointing fourth-place finish in South Carolina and his decision to withdraw.

Photos: Philly for Pete

With his husband Chasten at his side, Buttigieg made the announcement in South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday night, saying, “Today is a moment of truth. The truth is, the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy, if not for our cause.”

He told the crowd, “So we must recognize that at this point in the race, the best way to keep faith with those goals and ideals is to step aside and help bring our party and our country together.”

Explaining to staunch supporters that “the difficult decision to suspend my campaign for the presidency” had to be made, Buttigieg added, “We have a responsibility to concede the effect of remaining in this race any further. Our goal has always been to help unify Americans to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.” Buttigieg praised all of his competitors for “demonstrating what public service can be.”

In his final appearance as a presidential candidate, Buttigieg marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday with Black Civil Rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis, among many others.

Philly for Pete, a grassroots organization led by Nathan Osburn, had been instrumental in raising awareness of the candidate locally and engaging volunteers at colleges and throughout the region for Buttigieg.

Philly for Pete told PGN, “On behalf of the Steering Committee of Philly for Pete and our network of over 1,000 active grassroots supporters, we want to thank Pete for bringing to our city, our commonwealth, and our country a powerful and historic campaign.”

They added, “We appreciated visits from Pete and Chasten that rallied Philadelphians around a bold vision for the future. We will continue to promote the message of inclusion and belonging for our entire nation as all of us come together with a focus on ensuring that Pennsylvanians beat Donald Trump.”

Tariem Burroughs is on the board of Liberty City Democrats. A Ph.D. candidate in sociology, he was a delegate for Buttigieg from Philadelphia. Burroughs said, “It was an amazing experience.” He said he had previously “only put my toe into the political realm,” but that working for Buttigieg, he met “the most positive people — people who mirrored Pete, his morals, his character, his values.”

Burroughs said, “As a gay man myself, I saw in Pete a man who is bucking the system. And as a Black man, I was proud to represent him.” Burroughs said he and other Black people who supported Buttigieg felt their presence refuted the narrative that the Black community is homophobic.

For many young, gay supporters like Burroughs, Buttigieg represented the future for Democrats. Burroughs said that the party was in need of a “generational overhaul” and that Buttigieg represented that for Burroughs, who at 38 is the same age as the candidate — 40 years younger than the two frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders.

Osburn echoed that stance previously, noting, “People are wanting to turn the page on what’s broken in Washington, and so they’re looking to someone who represents that next generation of leadership.”

On March 2, just hours before the polls opened in 14 states and American Samoa for Super Tuesday, Buttigieg endorsed Biden, and Biden won the majority of the Super Tuesday races.

Buttigieg had warned supporters against nominating Sanders and his “inflexible, ideological revolution,” and although Buttigieg had argued in debates that Biden was the past, he said in his endorsement that Biden would help down-ballot races, which he said Sanders was unlikely to do, but which was critical to maintaining Democratic control of the House.

Biden praised Buttigieg, saying Buttigieg reminded him of his late son, Beau Biden, who was Attorney General of Delaware until his death from brain cancer in 2015. Biden said in his speech and later in a CNN interview that there would be a place for Buttigieg in a Biden administration, hinting at a Cabinet position. “He has an enormous talent,” Biden said.

At the end of his withdrawal speech, Buttigieg said, “I hope that everyone who has been part of this in any way knows that the campaign that you have built and the community that you have created is only the beginning of the change that we are going to make together.”

Burroughs said of Buttigieg, “He gracefully entered, and he gracefully exited. I have a picture of Chasten, my husband and my son that will be something to hold onto — an experience and of course, hope for the future because Pete is not gone, not gone for long.”

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.