Jan. 23, 2019 - Mayor Pete Buttigieg Announces Presidential Exploratory Committee

• video     • email to supporters     • transcript of media avail     • LGBTQ Victory Fund     • RNC


Buttigieg (voiceover and to camera): The show right now in Washington is exhausting.

The corruption, the fighting, the lying, the crisis.

It's got to end.

The reality is that there's no going back and there's no such thing as again in the real world.

We can't look for greatness in the past.

Right now our country needs a fresh start.

I'm Pete Buttigieg. I'm the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

When I arrived in office at the beginning of this decade, the national press said that our city was dying.

People on the outside didn't believe our city had a future.

We propelled our city's comeback by taking our eyes off the rearview mirror, being honest about change, and insisting on a better future.

I belong to a generation that is stepping forward right now.

We're the generation that lived through school shootings, that served in the wars after 9/11.

And we're the generation that stands to be the first to make less than our parents.

Unless we do something different.

"We can't just polish off a system so broken. It is a season for boldness and a focus on the future."

Good leadership brings out the best in us.

The job of a leader is to call us to our highest values.

[applause] "We stand for the better America that we know we can be. That's our message. It's not even complicated."

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.

There is no again in the real world.

That's not a bad thing.

We're ready for a fresh start. [applause]

"We stand proud for our values, let's go show the world.  Thank you."  [applause]

video 1min47sec

[email sent to supporters]

Good morning:

The show in Washington right now is exhausting: the corruption, the fighting, the lying, the sense of constant crisis… it has to end. But we can’t just revert to where we were a few years ago, trying to tinker with a broken system. This is a season for boldness, and we need to focus on the future. 

I want you to be among the first to know that I am considering a presidential campaign, and I’ve officially launched an exploratory committee.

Watch our new video and share with your friends and family:

This is my eighth and final year as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Over the last decade, our community has seen extraordinary changes, going from a city written off as “dying” to one that stands as living proof that the industrial Midwest can create a better future by leaving aside nostalgia and resentment, solving problems to help bring everyone a better everyday life. 

Time and again, South Bend has beaten the odds and the expectations. But now I am worried about our country -- especially for members of my generation. 

What will America look like in 2054, when I reach the age of the current president? How will we look back on 2020? 

My generation is the generation that experienced school shootings beginning when I was in high school, the generation that fought in the post 9/11 wars, the first generation to have to deal with the reality of climate change, and the first generation not to be better off than our parents materially -- if nothing changes. 

Only a forward focus -- untethered from the politics of the past and anchored by our shared
values -- can change our national politics and our nation’s future.

We value freedom knowing it means more than cutting regulation: you’re not free if you can’t sue a credit card company that gets caught ripping you off, or walk down the street without being profiled on the basis of your skin color, or marry the person you love. 

We value security knowing it means more than what goes on at the border: it requires real strategies for 21st-century threats like cybersecurity, election security, and climate security. 

And we value our democracy, the foundation of our national life, that is under attack from hostile foreign powers and from cynical political tactics. That’s why our democracy must be defended and broadened, with real and bold reforms.

I am aware of the odds we would face if we proceed to mount a national campaign. But I am exploring this run because I can offer a different experience and perspective than anyone else. And

I believe that at a moment like this, underdog campaigns will go further than the establishment would normally allow, when it comes to bold ideas that can truly meet the threats and opportunities coming our way. 

So please, tell a friend, share our video, and chip in $10 or whatever you can to help us assemble the best team.

I am looking forward to discussing and developing these ideas in the coming weeks. Simply put, I will need your help.

You have been there for me in the past, as I sought to bring needed change to our hometown and to our party. Now I ask you to join me in exploring what new leadership could mean for the country we love.



P.S. If you’re all in, please consider an early donation -- even just $10 would make a significant difference today. We’re not accepting corporate PAC money, so it’s up to folks like us.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Media Avail Regarding Presidential Exploratory 
Hyatt Place White House
Washington, DC
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.

[DEMOCRACY IN ACTION TRANSCRIPT |  photos |  Victory Fund Facebook Live]

And I'll begin just by saying Chasten and I have been overwhelmed and delighted with the response since early this morning when I announced that I filed an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States.

The case here is simple: that it's time for a new generation of leadership in our country and that we can't nibble around the edges of a broken system, that there is no going back, that there is no again in the real world, and that we can't rewind to 1950 or for that matter to 2010.

I'm in my eighth year as mayor of the city of South Bend, Indiana, which is a diverse income and largely low income city but one on a terrific trajectory in the heart of the industrial Midwest.

When I took office, we were being dismissed as a dying community.  That was just at the beginning of this decade, but we have faced some of our toughest challenges together and we have been able to get our city growing in a way that it hasn't in half a century.

And the important thing that I think people need to know about South Bend's story is that we didn't change our trajectory because I went around saying things like "I alone can fix it," or "we're going to make our city great again."

What we did was we faced reality.  We came to understand that there's no such thing as again, there's no turning back the clock,  and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

And now that our country's future is being called into question, I think, again, we need a fresh start. I belong to a generation that has a tremendous amount at stake from the consequences of the decisions that are being made right now.

Ours is generation that grew up when school shootings became the norm.

We are a generation that will be on the business end of effects we're already beginning to see when it comes to climate change.

We're the generation that's going to get the bill for the unaffordable tax cuts for billionaires that have been passed in this capital.

And we stand to be the first generation ever to be worse off economically than our parents unless we change something.  So it's time to change something.

I think that we're living through a total realignment in the politics of this country, and I think that's a good thing, but we've got to make choices that are anchored in the most important values that we share as a country and that includes the vocabulary that my party has not always comfortable or familiar using.  There's a lot of talk about how Democrats are somehow unable to fit our message on a bumper sticker.

For me the bumper sticker is pretty straightforward—it's freedom, democracy and security.

We've got to get back into business of talking about freedom and we've got to demonstrate that government is only one of the things that can make people unfree.  The reality is,you're not free If you can't sue a credit card company after it gets caught ripping you off.  You're not free if you can't marry the person you love.  You're not free as a woman if male politicians or employers get to tell you what your health care choices ought to be.  And those kinds of freedoms are secured by good choices and government, just as much as bad government can infringe on freedom.

I believe our democracy is being called into question; some are questioning whether the US even is a democracy, and we need to look at profound and fundamental reforms to deal with cynical attacks on the democratic character of our politics right now.  And when it comes to security, as someone who served overseas in uniform, I recognize that we are dealing not only with familiar and traditional security threats like counterterrorism and border security, but that we have a whole new thread of security threats, a whole new range of security threats emerging in the 21st century—cybersecurity, election security and climate security—that are going to have concrete specific impacts on the American way of life and they call for a very different approach than what we've been seeing right now.

What we have to do is take all of these deep, profound and high values and connect them to politics to the to the everyday, to the everyday life that mayors are concerned because we're held accountable for the lived experience of the people that we serve.  And I think when it comes to experience right now nothing could be more relevant than the experience of leading one of America's turnaround cities.

I have served my city as a mayor, I've served of our country as a military officer and now I'm ready for a new way to serve the American people.  We've put together a terrific team.  We are not going to be the most established.  We are not going to be the most well funded.  I'm obviously not stepping onto this stage as the most famous person in this conversation, but I belong to a party whose characteristic has always been to look for fresh voices, new leadership and big ideas and I think that's what 2020 is going to be about.

So let me pause here and see if there are any questions.

Q & A ...

Reporter: Mayor do you believe that other people in the party who are nearly twice your age should step aside for a new generation of leaders like yourself?

Buttigieg: I'm not going to tell anybody else in the party what to do.  What I do think we need to do is bring new ideas to the table and I don't think that we can have a restoration of the old way.  I think it's as unrealistic to turn back the clock to 2010 as it is to turn back the clock to 1950.  We wouldn't be here, we wouldn't be in the national, social, political crisis we're in if there wasn't something deeply wrong with the current system of our democracy and our economy and we've got to fix that and that's going to take new ideas and fresh faces.

Reporter: Mr. Mayor, is this an exploratory committee in the truest sense or are you in this for the long haul and do you need to see real viability when you travel to Iowa and New Hampshire and have a real response from voters there?

Buttigieg: Formally this is an exploratory committee and we respect all of the procedural steps and rules that apply there.  What I will say is that so far as we've been in Iowa a number of times we found a terrific response and based on what we've seen this morning it is only more encouraging that we're on the right track.

Reporter: You ran for party chair so you've given some thought to the role of the DNC in all this. What are a few things at the party can do to make sure these fresh voices, this new generation gets a fair shake along with the more famous candidates?

Buttigieg: Well, first of all, I respect and appreciate that the DNC seems to be bending over backwards to demonstrate that is being fair, that it is responsive to some of the criticisms that came after 2016, and I do think that's something that benefits newcomers and underdogs.  Obviously, there has to be a fair process so that people can compete on the strength of our message and the quality of our ideas, not just how established or how famous we already are.

Reporter: Is there anything that needs to change in the current process, that you would like to see specifically changed or altered?

Buttigieg: I don't have a lot of critiques of the way the 2020 process is beginning to unfold.  Of course, it's only beginning to unfold.  But I do appreciate that there seems to be a real desire to be fair to new voices.

Reporter: Mayor you mentioned your service.  By the time of the 2020 election if we're still in Afghanistan there will be kids serving there who were not born when the war started.  President Trump is considering bringing bacl thousands of troops.  I want to know where you stand on bringing back troops from Afghanistan.  Also, the Syria plan for reduction of troops is underway.
Where do you stand on that; should be United States continue to be engaged in Afghanistan and in Syria?

Buttigieg: What's clear is that we can't go on like this.  Endless war cannot continue.  And if you look at Afghanistan or a number of other places where we are operating with boots on the ground, we're operating on an authorization for use of military force from 2001, it has to deal with 9-11—when I was a teenager.  So it's clear that we can't go on like this.  It's also clear that you don't set foreign policy by surprising your own Pentagon with a tweet.  Yes, we need to find a way out of Afghanistan.  Yes, we need to make sure that any presence we have in Syria is well thought through, is targeted to protect American interests, and is not a slippery slope toward yet another piece of endless war and confrontation.

Reporter: Do you have a timeline...thought on finding a way out of Afghanistan?

Buttigieg: Well, I think it has to happen as soon as there has been a negotiated solution that establishes some level of regional security.  We don't want to put ourselves in a position where another generation finds itself being deployed again because of another attack, but simply staying there infinitely with no plan is not going to work.  And neither is leaving with no plan.

Reporter: Mayor, for folks who may just be learning about you and watching— the best way to pronounce your last name?

Buttigieg: Buttigieg.  But around South Bend they just call me Mayor Pete and that's fine with me.

Reporter: And on the issue that's tying up Washington, what's more important to you, reopening the government or stopping the construction of a wall?

Buttigieg: Reopening the government should not be negotiable.  It just needs to open the government.  And I've got to say, you know as a mayor—and you know we're gathering for the U.S. Conference of Mayors across the street—it is pretty puzzling that that is even something that can be contemplated.  For us if we ever shut down the government over a policy agreement, we'd be run out of town on a rail.  And I hope that we can have maybe more the mentality of city leaders,  cities being maybe the only level of government in the U.S. that's really functioning right now, and have Washington begin to look a little more like the community of American mayors instead of the other way around.

Reporter: It's expected to be a very crowded field.  It's already kind of crowded.  There are other mayors, there are other...basically every profile is in this field.  What do you think you're bringing to this that's unique?

Buttigieg: Well I think it's pretty clear that I'm not like the others.  A lot's been said about my age, but also my experience.  At least of the people who've jumped in, I'm the only one who is living a middle class lifestyle in a middle class neighborhood in Middle America.  Obviously, I am the first openly gay person to seek the Democratic nomination.  But it's not just about profile.  At the end of the day, this has to be about ideas.  And I actually think that the, let's be honest, underdog characteristics of this project are also something that's going to give us permission, and a healthy pressure, to be bolder than the others, to bring forward different ideas that others may hesitate to talk about if they're more established. and I think that's a healthy thing.  A broad field, a wide open field, that's a good thing for newcomers and I think it's one more sign that it's a season for a different kind of leadership

Reporter: A lot of the response to your video has been the fact that you are the first gay candidate running for president possibly ever.  How, what role do you see that playing your campaign and, you know, are you, you said it's not, I think your quote was it's not about profile. What role do you see that playing your campaign?

Buttigieg: Well, it's a fact of life and it's also something that has informed my experience and my approach.  I mean, for one thing, the most important thing in my life, my marriage to Chasten, is something that exists by the grace of a single vote upon the U.S. Supreme Court.  So I'm somebody who understands, whether it's through that or whether it's through the fact that I was sent to war on the orders of the President, I understand politics not in terms of who's up and who's down or some of the other things that command the most attention on the news, but in terms of every day impacts on our lives.  And I'm also mindful of the fact that this just might make it a little easier for the next person who comes along.  You know my sincere hope is by the time our kids are old enough, once we've had kids, to understand politics that it won't even be newsworthy.  And maybe that's how it is in some of the coastal cities, but not right now in Indiana.

Reporter: Can I ask about the response online, because a lot of it has been that this opens doors to people who may think about running in the future.  Just as personally. what is your response to that; how do you feel about that?
Buttigieg: Well it means a lot to me, right.  I mean, one of the things that I think every person should think about in the run up to 2020, especially because there are so many people, is that it is not only the outcome but the conduct of campaigns that will make an impact on the political life of our country, and if just by being there, by doing something that might not have been thought possible— 

I mean when I came out lMike Pence was the governor of Indiana.  When I joined the military, don't ask don't tell was still the law of the land.  And when it first crossed my mind that I might run for office someday, I believed that coming out would be a career death sentence.

So, the world is changing, but it's not changing on its own, and if by bringing forward good ideas I can be part of chipping away at that, then that's one more reason to give this a look.

Reporter: Mayor, people have responded to your candidacy positioning with the thought that your positioning yourself to be the vice presidential candidate, Cabinet secretary, run for something else in Indiana.  Do you want to rulel those out...?

Buttigieg: You don't run for I hope any office, but certainly this office unless you have a plan for that office and unless you see a path to get there.  Again, I get the odds, but I also believe that we can do something that no one else can do.  And I think that the best way that we as a society, bring forward good political ideas is through the American presidential campaign.  It's just where those kinds of ideas get get tested in the best sense and I'm excited about the prospect of being part of it.

Reporter: You talked about the pathway forward.  Can you elaborate on that a little bit, what specifically you see is your pathway?

Buttigieg: Well, when you have a very spread out and a very wide open field, one of the things it means is that everybody gets a shot.  It means that if you can assemble a critical mass, which doesn't necessarily amount to 50 percent plus one on the first day, it means that you can grow that.

And I think we're also in a moment where some of the traditional ways that being involved, you know getting your name out there is mediated is starting to shift.  So in addition to traditional print and television media, this is I think a moment when even more than that it has in past campaigns digital and social media are going to create whole new ways for people to reach wide audiences.

But at the end of day it's going to be about your message.  Your profile, how you look on paper, that gets you a look.  And then you actually get out there with some ideas, with an account of where our country is going, and put something forward that the others can't.  And I think, I really believe that in this country, especially in this party, if you do that better than the others then you have a shot.

Reporter: You mentioned bold ideas a couple of times, and a couple of the early candidates have come right out with early, pretty progressive policy proposals.  Do you have any for us that you want to tell us about or is there anything that you think you'll want to build your campaign around going forward, anything specific?

Buttiegieg: So, day one of the exploratory phase is not when we unfold fully articulated policy...but we'll be builiding that.  But what I will say is it's going to be anchored in these three principles: freedom, democracy and security.  And I think each of those has a lot of policy weight to it. 

If we orient our commitment to freedom around making sure the policies make it easier for people to go about their lives, to tear down obstacles for people living a life of their choosing, then I think that points us in a different direction than an argument simply over literally the size of the government versus what it's actually doing for us. 

When it comes to democracy. I do think there are some very specific things that we need to be looking at, from doing away with the Electoral College, which there's just not a lot of common sense justification for.  Even if that requires a constitutional amendment.  By the way it was fifty years ago this year, that Birch Bayh, Senator of Indiana, came pretty close to getting just such an amendment through Capitol Hill.  If nothing else, beginning that conversation hopefully will remind our party that intellectual ambition we should have, we shouldn't rule out structural reforms at a moment when iit's clear that some things are just not working.

We're in the District of Columbia, where they are a bunch of Americans, American citizens, who have less representation than other Americans.  Athough one thing I feel like I have in common with a lot of people living in Indiana is a lot of times my vote doesn't count either, at least when it comes to presidential politics because of the way our democracy is configured.  It's leading to undemocratic results in particular it's leading to policies that most Americans don't agree with.

So whether it's that or some of the things that we talk about more often like fair districting, getting money out of politics and whether it is legislative or constitutional, the way to make sure that access to the ballot for Americans who are eligible to vote is never tampered with, I think that needs to be at the core of our agenda.

And I'll have a lot to say about security as we go on.

Reporter: You say you haven't decided whether or not you support implementing a single payer healthcare system or even abolishing ICE.

Buttigieg: Well I'm all for implementing a single payer healthcare system. I also recognize that along the way to getting there, along the road to Medicare for all, maybe Medicare for more is part of how we make that happen.  Or maybe in the first instance we can do something like these all pay rate settings that's used in Maryland to keep health care costs down while we develop something better for the long term.  Bottom line is everybody should be able to get health care.
And I think everybody agrees on that.  I don't think we have to make it that complicated as a principle.  Obviously it's a complicated set of policy issues, but we have to start with our values and go from there.

Reporter: President Trump won your home state.  You were referring to your vote not counting I think is the way that you wanted it to last time.  What, what were you able to learn from his campaign about politics?  What was it that he was able to do that convinced so many Indiana voters to vote for him?

Buttigieg: Well it was a really instructive thing to watch.  I think, for one thing there's just showing up and addressing us where we were.  I also think that it felt in that race that it was all about him or it was about her.  The message from my party started out as I'm with her, then it evolved to make sure we agree we're all against him.  A lot of people where I live were saying, Okay, but what about me?  And we have to have a politics that addresses us in our actual every day lives.  My county should be reliably Democratic but it was almost 50/50.  But I also know that, and I think we learned from 2016, that voters are not necessarily ideological.  They don't just array all their options on a [inaud.] left to right spectrum, then find the one whose dot is closer to, closest to the way they view the world.  There are lot of people in Indiana who voted for Barack Obama and Mike Pence and Donald Trump and me, so what that shows you is that people are looking for somebody who is concerned about them and are looking for a lot of other things that have a complicated set of overlapping thrusts, but the bottom line is you've got to center it every day life.

Reporter: You met last summer with President Obama in private.  What kind of advice did he give you and is it fair to say that he encouraged you to pursue this campaign?

Buttigieg: I don't want to characterize a private conversation.  What I will say is that my generation is lucky to have an ex-president who's decided to specialize in cultivating the future generation of leaders, not just in politics but also in society.  I really value that. I'm thankful that he's made time for me, but I also thank him more broadly for what he's done as an ex-president as well as president.

Reporter: You talked a lot about being part of a new generation.  Is there an anything specifically in your campaign you're going to do to target younger voters or anything specifically that's part of your campaign strategy?

Buttigieg: Yeah, absolutely.  Again, one thing we'll be doing is using digital media to connect to people in a direct way.  But I think reaching younger voters is not just about tactics and mechanics, it's about what you have to say.

Now I'm thinking about what the world's going to look like when I reach the current age of the current president, which is the year 2054.  And if you're thinking about what you'll be doing in 2054 the world looks a little bit different because you know that you're going to be picking up the pieces of reckless policies that are being made right now and the things that are not being done right now to secure us.  I think young people will respond to that.  And by the way, you don't have to be young to care about that.  When I ran for mayor in South Bend at the age of 29, young people responded powerfully; seniors responded even more powerfully because they care a lot about the future. And so we aim to be inclusive in our message and to really find a way to connect with everybody where they are.

Thanks again for coming; really appreciate it and look forward to meeting you more and developing these ideas as we go.

[He spoke for about 5 minutes and took questions for about 15 minutes].

LGBTQ Victory Fund

Openly LGBTQ Mayor Pete Buttigieg Takes Historic First Step in 2020 U.S. Presidential Race

Buttigieg would be the first openly LGBTQ elected official to run for U.S. President

Washington, DC – Today LGBTQ Victory Fund, the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ people, cheered South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s decision to form an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential run. If Mayor Buttigieg decides to run, he will become the first openly LGBTQ elected official to run for President of the United States. His decision comes in the wake of an unprecedented “Rainbow Wave” of openly LGBTQ candidates who ran this past election cycle at every level of government, many of whom broke down long-standing political barriers on Election Night.

VIDEO: Watch Mayor Buttigieg address Victory Fund and the LGBTQ community directly about the historic nature of the announcement.

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, released the following statement about the formation of the exploratory committee:

“An openly LGBTQ elected official forming a presidential exploratory committee is a historic and powerful moment for the LGBTQ community and the entire country. Exactly fifty years after the Stonewall uprising that gave birth to the modern LGBTQ rights movement, we are finally in a place where an openly LGBTQ presidential candidate can be a serious contender. For the teenager in small-town America who is just coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity, having an openly LGBTQ person running for the most important political office in the world will demonstrate there is no limit to what they can achieve – and that is transformative.

“In such a wide-open presidential race, Mayor Buttigieg would be a welcome contribution to the marketplace of ideas that will determine where our nation is headed in 2020 and beyond. And while he is not running on his sexual orientation, his presence will undoubtedly elevate LGBTQ issues in the Democratic primary. LGBTQ voters are an important part of the primary base, and with Mayor Buttigieg on the campaign trail and on the debate stages, other Democratic presidential candidates will need to be outspoken and well-versed on LGBTQ equality issues.

“Mayor Buttigieg is well-positioned for this political moment. He represents a new generation of presidential contenders and brings a sense of optimism and American solidarity that is entirely absent from the current national dialogue. He brings a unique set of skills and values to the race as a successful two-term executive, a first-generation American and a gay war veteran from a deep red state. Mayor Buttigieg understands that Americans are tired of politics as blood-sport and instead want politicians to address real issues affecting real lives. He sees the similarities between the blue-collar worker in Indiana, the undocumented immigrant in Arizona, and the young lesbian in middle school in rural Virginia – and he believes with strong leadership all their lives can be improved.

“Our country is in crisis and it is essential diverse perspectives are heard in this presidential race.”
LGBTQ Victory Fund
LGBTQ Victory Fund works to change the face and voice of America’s politics and achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans by increasing the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials at all levels of government.

Republican National Committee

"Before Buttigieg wastes time on a presidential campaign, he should focus on his town's sea of potholes and sky-high crime rate. 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." - RNC Spokesman Michael Ahrens
No Democrat is a match for the record number of accomplishments under President Trump, but here’s just some of what you need to know about Buttigieg:

1. Business Insider, 4/16/18

2. South Bend Tribune, 1/22/16; South Bend Tribune, 1/5/18

3. South Bend Tribune, 2/26/18

4. NBC News, 2/25/17

5. IndyStar, 3/28/18