SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Mayor Pete Buttigieg made official his campaign for president today in his hometown, after rising to the top-polling tier of Democratic candidates.
“It’s time to walk away from the politics of the past, and toward something totally different,” he said. “So that’s why I’m here today, joining you to make a little news: My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana."
"And I am running for President of the United States,” he continued.
Buttigieg is now the first openly LGBTQ Democratic presidential candidate in U.S. history.
His announcement came on a day of rotten Midwestern weather, when well-below-normal temperatures and rain forced the event indoors to Studebaker Building 84, a former automobile factory retrofitted into a mixed-use technology center.
Buttigieg cast his youth front and center at his announcement that drew a crowd over 10,000 people, according to local officials. He focused his plans for the future of America on the effects of climate change, healing racial divisions and the fact that Millennials will earn less over the course of their lives than their parents.
Buttigieg also pointed out that he came of age, in the early 1980s, between two eras — and that the nation finds itself in such a time again today.
“The forces of change in our country today are tectonic. Forces that help to explain what made this current presidency even possible,” he said. “That’s why, this time, it’s not just about winning an election — it’s about winning an era.”
Many LGBTQ leaders on-site for the historic announcement pointed to the fact that his run now will not just turn a new chapter on American life, but specifically queer lives.
“Mayor Pete [has] shattered a lavender ceiling once thought unbreakable, becoming the first openly LGBTQ Democratic presidential candidate in American history and our first real shot at the Oval Office,” said former Houston mayor and president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Annise Parker.
She also shared that her organization will formally endorse Buttigieg's candidacy in conjunction with his campaign. "[He's] an example of what we strive for at Victory: people coming into the political process and working their way up," she told The Advocate.
Paul Barnes, 71 and visiting from Ashland, Oregon, further put the day in perspective.
“Something’s happening,” Barnes told The Advocate. “Having been there for Stonewall, having lived through the ‘80s, when the administration in power did nothing except stand by in stone-cold silence, having been in California when Harvey Milk was assassinated — and then the Supreme Court decision actually happened on my birthday in 2015 — I’ve seen a lot."
"This is historic," Barnes continued.
Adam McCarty, a student at the Ohio State University, came from Columbus to South Bend with his mother for the announcement.
“For so many kids who are trapped, who can’t find the light to get out, Pete is that shining light," McCarty told The Advocate. "[H]e's able to provide them with enough hope to say, ‘I’m allowed to be me.’”
Buttigieg's ambitions for president come after a swift and fairly bumpy rise within the political landscape — but one that now sees new heights as an openly gay candidate.
In 2010, he launched an unsuccessful campaign for Indiana State Treasurer. He was elected mayor of South Bend the next year and reelected in 2015. After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, he raised his national profile with a run to chair the Democratic National Committee. In January, he announced the creation of his presidential exploratory committee.
Buttigieg’s military service coincided with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and its abandonment. He came out publicly to constituents in a June 16, 2015, essay published in the South Bend Tribune, days before the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that helped usher in marriage equality.
“It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am,” he wrote.
“Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family," the mayor wrote then. "I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy."
Exactly three years later, the mayor married schoolteacher and noted Twitter gay Chasten Buttigieg at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. The newlyweds went immediately after to make an appearance at the city’s nascent pride festival.
And their personal life — and struggles — were a consitent highlight within today's event.
Christopher Cabaldon, the mayor of West Sacramento, California, spoke of the difficulties LGBTQ Americans have overcome and still face while helping introduce the candidate.
"Federal policy still thoroughly dehumanizes down to the cellular level that Pete would be turned away by the bloodmobile if, as mayor, he had to rush to the scene of a Pulse Nightclub-style massacre in his own community to rescue the people he's sworn to protect," Cabaldon stated, pointing to the federal ban still in place that blocks men who have sex with other men from donating blood.
A fact that he feels articulates how LGBTQ people are treated still by the governement — which he feels will only inspire change as Buttigieg sees continued support behind him.
“[F]or the first time in our nation’s history, that American is also a top-tier major party candidate for president of the United States,” Cabaldon said to sustained cheers. “Maybe the people of our country are surprising themselves as they are saying across the land: ‘Pete Buttigieg is the Maltese-American, left-handed, Episcopalian, gay, Millennial war veteran that America didn’t know we needed!’”
Buttigieg will now go onto campaign around the country, and his run expected to continue to make waves as his profile seems to only continue to rise within the political landscape.