Any day now openly gay presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg will officially file to run for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. News of his candidacy has already reached the LGBTQ community all over the globe. Pete is proving daily to them that there are no longer any limits on what they can do with their lives. LGBTQers young, old and everyone in-between are inspired by Pete and his message.
I know a lot about his journey, because I ran for president exactly eight years ago as the first openly gay major-party candidate in history. It was an uphill 2 1/2 year journey which I began in January 2010 and ended when I was the last candidate standing running against presumptive nominee Mitt Romney in the Utah Primary on June 26, 2012.
It was a very different time and I competed in a very different party primary. I ran for the Republican Party nomination against 10 other candidates, most of whom were vocal LGBTQ opponents, including former Sen. Rick Santorum, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Perry and former Gov. Mitt Romney.
I spoke on the same stage at event after event with the 10 of them all over the country. They got to meet me and hear from me. Republican audiences were often uncomfortable, but I wanted to send the message that the party of Lincoln should support LGBTQ rights, not oppose them. And I had an important message for the LGBTQ community, you can do anything you want in life, even run for president. Sadly, I never made it on the stage of any of the national debates, so my message was not heard by enough people.
Cut to eight years later. Pete Buttigieg is on a meteoric rise and he only launched his Exploratory Committee 10 weeks ago. America is just starting to get to know Pete and his husband Chasten and they like what they see and hear.
Pete has the intelligence, charisma, proven leadership, executive experience, imaginative ideas and the understanding of complex issues to be a very a competitive candidate in a crowded Democratic race. At 37 years old, Pete represents the next generation of American leadership. And Pete is the real deal. He is thoughtful and balanced. As the Mayor of a Midwestern city, he is used to working with a wide array of people. Pete will bring this real-world experience to the campaign, and if elected president, to the White House.
I was convinced when I met Pete in early February and saw him in action. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni interiewed him in front of 350 people packed into the Brooklyn Library auditorium on a freezing evening. They lined up early and were spellbound by Pete and his message. What is going on I thought when I arrived at the Library? How is this Indiana mayor filling this venue so far from home? Then I heard his hour-long interview. Wow, I hadn't seen a candidate create this kind of excitement since Barack Obama. I met Pete after the program and he thanked me for helping to make his path a little easier. That was it. I endorsed him that night and sent a contribution to his Exploratory Committee, Pete for America.
Pete has proven himself in every appearance. He has shown that he can raise money. After his stellar CNN Town Hall appearance with Jake Tapper, he quickly hit the Democratic National Committee's 65,000 donor threshold to qualify for the first presidential debate in June. Pete has worked long and hard to get to this point and he now deserves all our support as he campaigns to become the first openly gay president.
Today I am calling on each and every LGBTQ person and organization to fully support Pete Buttigieg for president. What a difference that will make. It's our chance to flex our collective muscle.
That means you, Human Rights Campaign, Victory Fund, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, Family Equality Council, Transgender Law Center, Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and even the National Gay Pilots Association. Every state equality organization across the country and their PACs should support Pete. All of these powerful and influential organizations along with the over 30 million of us who identify as LGBTQ in this country could quickly transform Pete into a top tier contender.
When we worked together, we won the war on marriage equality, got the ban lifted on LGB people in the military and are now kicking butt getting states to pass laws banning conversion therapy.
We all need to endorse, support, volunteer and contribute to help Pete and the time is now, Democrats, Republicans, Independents.
I was 19 when the Stonewall riots took place. That uprising had a huge impact on my coming out. We were finally showing our faces and fighting back against so much hate and oppression. Now on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall the LGBTQ community has the opportunity to work together and help elect a very qualified member of our community as president.
FRED KARGER is a longtime political consultant, LGBTQ rights activist, former presidential candidate, and founder of Rights Equal Rights.