South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg Could Become First Openly Gay President As He Launches Exploratory Committee

'We can’t look for greatness in the past. Right now our country needs a fresh start.'

Pete Buttigieg
City of South Bend Indiana / Wikimedia Commons (GPL)

'We can’t look for greatness in the past. Right now our country needs a fresh start.'

Pete Buttigieg could be the United States’ first openly gay president, as the South Bend, Indiana, mayor launched a so-called “exploratory committee” on Wednesday to explore his options, the Hill is reporting.

Buttigieg, 37, attended Harvard and then served in the Navy, serving in Afghanistan in 2013. He remains a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve to this day. He has since built a career in Indiana politics. At 30, he was elected mayor of South Bend, with 74 percent of the vote, as the Washington Post reported at the time. He became the youngest person to be the mayor of a city of over 100,000 people.

He took over a city that had been on the decline for decades, ever since a Studebaker plant closed in the 1960s. Blighted by abandoned buildings and a downtown without an “anchor,” Buttigieg set about to turn things around in the Northwest Indiana city.

He started a toll-free 311 line allowing city residents to access city services more easily. He made it easier for the city to identify and destroy vacant buildings. He brought in a tech consulting firm to figure out how the city could attract technology jobs and investors.

Jack Colwell is in Buttigieg’s corner, even though he admits things are far from perfect in South Bend.

“He’s generally been received pretty well. Business leaders like him. He’s worked a great deal with the University of Notre Dame. He may lose some of that luster… if the potholes get worst.”

In the process, Buttigieg became something of a rising star in the Democratic Party. He ran, and lost, for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman in 2017, but by all accounts, the campaign raised his visibility within the party.

At his Wednesday press conference during which he announced his presidential aspirations, Buttigieg took a thinly-veiled swipe at Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

“There is no again in the real world. We can’t look for greatness in the past. Right now our country needs a fresh start.”

Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, welcomes the idea of an openly-gay POTUS.

“An openly LGBTQ elected official forming a presidential exploratory committee is a historic and powerful moment for the LGBTQ community and the entire country.”

Buttigieg joins a field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls planning to challenge Donald Trump that is already starting to become slightly crowded. As of this writing, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and several other Democrats have announced that they are running or are exploring options in 2020.