The LGBTQ Victory Fund has for the first time endorsed a presidential candidate — and it’s Pete Buttigieg.
Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker announced the endorsement before Buttigieg supporters at a WorldPride event in Brooklyn, N.Y., Friday evening. She also spoke with The Advocate about why the organization is endorsing the gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Victory Fund endorses only openly LGBTQ candidates, but not just because of their identity. They have to be qualified and viable, and show an ability to compete. “He has absolutely done that,” she said of Buttigieg.
He is the first viable presidential candidate from the LGBTQ community, she said. Gay activist Fred Karger sought the Republican nomination in 2012 and qualified for the primary ballot in a few states; Parker said she recognized Karger’s achievement, but his candidacy was something of an outlier.
Some might question if being the mayor of a medium-sized city is sufficient preparation to be president, but Parker dismisses any concerns about Buttigieg’s experience. “There is no better leadership training that being mayor of any size city,” said Parker, who served three terms as mayor of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city. Of being a mayor, she said, “It’s intense, it’s day to day, it’s operational.” Several others in the 2020 Democratic presidential field have been mayors, such as Cory Booker, Julián Castro, and Bernie Sanders.
Also, she said, “You have to look at the whole package.” Buttigieg, she pointed out, is a Rhodes scholar and a military veteran, and he was successful in business before going into politics. Plus, she noted, “He’s absolutely brilliant.”
He has lately been dealing with a crisis in South Bend, where many residents are outraged over the fatal shooting of a Black man by a white police officer. The officer has said the victim, Eric Logan, came at him with a knife. An investigation of the matter is under way.
Last weekend, Buttigieg held a town hall meeting in South Bend to hear residents’ concerns. “He was strong,” Parker said of his performance. “He was in the town hall, doing what mayors do. … The salient point for voters is he went in, he led, he did what he needed to do for his constituents.”
Having been mayor of South Bend since 2012, she added, Buttigieg has more government executive experience than the current president. Mayors tend to be pragmatic and realistic, Parker noted. “That same kind of clear-eyed pragmatism … is what America’s longing for in a chief executive,” she said.
She praised Buttigieg’s performance in his first presidential debate Thursday night. “I thought he held his own. … I frankly think that Kamala Harris won the night, but I was very proud of Pete’s performance,” she said.
While it may seem early in the election cycle to make an endorsement, Parker said Victory Fund isn’t being hasty. The organization didn’t endorse him when he first announced he was forming an exploratory committee regarding a presidential run (in January) or when he officially announced his candidacy (in April). “We have been watching him as his campaign develops,” she said. “We gave him an opportunity to prove himself.” He has shown himself to be part of the party mainstream and in the top tier of candidates.
The nation is definitely ready for a president from the LGBTQ community, according to Parker. It’s been electing out officials since the 1970s, she noted. There are currently a gay and a bisexual governor (Colorado’s Jared Polis and Oregon’s Kate Brown) and two U.S. senators from the community (lesbian Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin and bisexual Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona). Plus Parker, a lesbian, was mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city, and another lesbian, Lori Lightfoot, has just taken office as mayor of the third-largest, Chicago. A recent poll found that 70 percent of respondents said they’d vote for a gay president.
Also, whether or not Buttigieg is successful in his run — and Parker predicts he will be — he’s bringing a much-needed voice to the campaign, she said. While all the Democratic candidates are at least good on LGBTQ concerns, and some are excellent, “by having Pete in the race, it keeps LGBTQ issues in the mix,” she said.
There’s also the matter of representation. “We should all be proud every time that boyish face is beamed into Americans’ living rooms and changes perceptions of who we are in a very positive way,” Parker said. And it just may let some young LGBTQ people know that they can run for president too, she added.