Pete Buttigieg made history on Sunday as he officially entered the crowded Democratic primary field, becoming the first openly gay candidate from a major party.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor made his official announcement after having launched an exploratory committee and steadily built his stature and his standing in the polls. As the New York Daily News noted, the openly gay mayor is the youngest of the field at age 37.
“I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” Buttigieg told supporters at his event on Sunday. “More than a little bold, at age 37, to seek the highest office in the land,” he added.
Though much has been written about Buttigieg’s unusual profile for a Democratic candidate — he has never held an office higher than mayor, he served in Afghanistan while he was mayor, and is openly gay — he has tried to remain focused on the issues and not his own background.
“But I’m not running to be president for any one group. If I thought to myself just in terms of identity lines, it’d be a pretty lonely place, because I’m the only Maltese-American Episcopalian gay veteran that I know,” he told CNBC.
“If we get identity right, then it can actually be a source of solidarity with people whose identity is completely different. I think divisive identity politics is exactly what’s being practiced by the White House today, and it’s using race to divide us within, for example, the middle and working class. We’ve got to turn the page from that.”
While an openly gay candidate may have once been a non-starter for either major party, Buttigieg has been able to stand out in a field filled with very experienced Democratic candidates. While he once lingered at the bottom of polls with either zero or 1 percent support, Buttigieg has risen to roughly 4 percent in polls, which political experts say is statistically significant.
Backers see Buttigieg as one of the best candidates to face Donald Trump, as his background as a veteran makes him a difficult target. Buttigieg also has a wide appeal in polls, pulling supporters from across the spectrum.
As Vanity Fair noted, Pete Buttigieg is parlaying some massive media attention — including an appearance on Ellen — to continue rising in the Democratic field. A recent Monmouth University poll found that Buttigieg had surged to third place in the critical early state of Iowa, and a Saint Anselm College poll found that he had also jumped to third place in Iowa.