Pete Buttigieg has high hopes for 2020.
Along with taking control of the Oval Office, the Democratic presidential candidate wants to make it the year the United States addresses climate change, squashes systemic racism and ends gun violence, Buttigieg told about 1,000 people gathered in the rain at Reading Terminal Market on Sunday evening for a rally that kicked off in true Philly fashion with an Eagles chant.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor said in a roughly 20-minute speech that he aims to give youth answers that will make them proud of their country. Buttigieg referenced children he’s met on the campaign trail, including a 13-year-old boy who tearfully asked what gun laws would be passed so he doesn’t have to fear violence at school and a 12-year-old girl who worried her diabetes care would go uncovered if her parents lost their health coverage.
“We are at a moment of so much importance for the rest of our lives,” Buttigieg said at the event. “We’re going to remember what we did in 2020.”
As a moderate contender in the pool of left-leaning presidential hopefuls, Buttigieg dedicated a sizeable chunk of his first Pennsylvania campaign stop to discuss how he would stand “up for the values that make us Americans” like strengthening national security, reforming gun laws, protecting people of different faiths and addressing environmental concerns.
“When it comes to a value like patriotism and the love of this country, that is not a Republican value, that is an American value,” Buttigieg said, adding, “You cannot love this country if you hate half the people that are in it.”
Many national polls rank Buttigieg, 37, a former intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, as fourth or fifth in the Democratic race, according to political analysis website FiveThirtyEight.
But new numbers collected via a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll conducted Oct. 16-18 show Buttigieg narrowing the gap between himself and frontrunners former vice president Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in predictions for the February Iowa caucuses, which are the first to occur across the country. The new screening of 500 people likely to turn out to the caucuses places Biden at 18 percent, Warren at 17 percent and Buttigieg at 13 percent.
The crowd at the Oct. 20 Pete Buttigieg rally at Reading Terminal Market. Photo: Nathan Osburn / Philadelphians for Pete Buttigieg
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who introduced Buttigieg to the crowd Sunday, called the candidate a “leader of character.”
“During this time when our country is so segregated, our country is so divided, when there is so much hate out there, he understands what our country needs,” Murphy said. “He’s rising up to the challenge to unify our nation and … if we want to change Washington, we have to change who we send to Washington. And that’s Mayor Pete.”
Nathan Osburn, a lead organizer for the volunteer group Philadelphians for Pete Buttigieg, told PGN the rally was a “microcosm of what's going on nationally” in the political sphere.
“Democrats are tuning in, and they like both what Pete is saying and what his actual policies are,” Osburn said. “Americans know he has the potential to unite us in a way no other candidate can.”
Buttigieg has made history as the first out presidential candidate with the Democratic Party. He released an 18-page plan this month outlining his proposed agenda for ensuring queer equality in what he dubs “a new era” for LGBTQ Americans.
“Twenty years ago, an awkward teenager at St. Joe High School in South Bend, Indiana, who didn’t know a single out LGBTQ+ student, never would have imagined how far we would come as a country,” Buttigieg wrote in a statement on his website accompanying the plan’s debut. “But what does our country look like to a teenager in 2019, just starting to realize who they are? What future do they see for themselves?”
Buttigieg’s proposed policies include passing a federal Equality Act that would bar housing and work discrimination against LGBTQ people, updating the U.S. passport program to include a nonbinary “X” gender option and prohibiting medically unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex infants and children.
“I hope people took away from the event that there is a candidate who has the potential to implement progressive policies while somehow also bringing along Independent voters and even Republicans,” Osburn told PGN.