The Slatest

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg Enters 2020 Democratic Primary

Standing in front of a patriotic-looking background, Buttigieg speaks into a microphone.
Sound Bend, Indiana, Mayor Peter Buttigieg speaks at a 2016 debate watching party for the LGBTQ community in Chicago on Sept. 26, 2016.
Derek Henkle/Getty Images

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg plans to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential race, with goals of being the youngest and first openly gay president, he announced Wednesday.

Buttigieg (pronounced “boot-edge-edge”), who is just 37 and often referred to as “Mayor Pete,” announced in December that he would not seek a third term as mayor, stoking speculation that he would run for higher office. Early on Wednesday he announced in a video and email his intention to set up an exploratory committee, the first step toward launching a presidential campaign.

“I belong to a generation that is stepping forward right now,” he said in the announcement, which sought to set him apart from more experienced Democratic candidates by emphasizing his youth and fresh perspective. “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.”

Buttigieg, a Rhodes scholar and military veteran who took an unpaid leave of absence from office to serve a tour in Afghanistan in 2014, rose to prominence when, in 2011, the then-29-year-old became the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with at least 100,000 residents. As South Bend’s mayor, he remained popular, and in 2015, he came out as gay, later marrying middle school teacher Chasten Glezman. In 2016, in surely the highlight of his political career, he also contributed to Slate’s live blog of the Indiana presidential primary.

After his unsuccessful bid in 2017 to become the Democratic National Committee chairman, he gained name recognition at the national level and has been called a rising star of the party. If he were nominated, he would become the first ever openly gay candidate for a major party.

Buttigieg is one of several long-shot candidates to have already announced plans to run for office. Businessman Andrew Yang declared his candidacy on a platform centered around a universal basic income; John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, is sticking to a pro-business message dependent on the support of independents and moderate Republicans; and former West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda, an army veteran and advocate for the state’s teachers, has said he believes the party’s path forward is to appeal to working class voters.