OUTspoken: Watch out for that Pete Buttigieg fellow, he’s far more than ‘the gay candidate’

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg hasn’t officially announced his candidacy yet in the 2020 presidential race, but he’s turning a lot of heads and is making big stides in a vast pack of contenders. (Richard Shiro — The Associated Press)
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In a vast field of 2020 presidential contenders — filled primarily with veterans of politics — few stand out.

It the guy who actually hasn’t declared his candidacy yet that is drawing my attention: Pete Buttigieg or Mayor Pete as he is known in South Bend, Indiana, where he’s serving his final term as mayor.

All the talking heads are singing his praises.

The Washington Post labeled him the “most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.”

Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” recently explained his background.

“He’s a veteran, a Harvard graduate, and a Rhodes Scholar who’s openly gay and also so young that if he served two terms as president, when he came out he would still only be 46,” Noah said. “Plus, he’s a concert pianist and speaks seven languages, including Norwegian, which he learned just so that he could read Norwegian books.”

Impressive, right?

Plus he’s bringing in campaign donations, notching an estimated $7 million in the first three months of the year and tweeted the campaign is “out-performing expectations at every turn.”

He’s also passed the 65,000 campaign donor threshold to qualify for the presidential debates that are kicking off this summer.

I suspect this will make the inaugural Democratic debate on LGBTQ topics planned for the eve of National Coming Out Day in October all the more interesting.

He’s smart, he’s turning heads and he appears to be winning the social media game. Axios pointed out, “Pete Buttigieg is generating more social-media interest per article than any of his 2020 rivals.”

And as an out mayor, he’s reaching out to LGBTQ groups extensively, hanging out with Human Rights Campaign staffers recently and he’s set to speak at the Victory Fund’s annual brunch on Sunday. His husband has a gig speaking at HRC’s Houston gala. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes appearances at Pride events this June, which is marking 50 years since Stonewall.

Another thing that makes Buttigieg unique is how little dirt there is on the guy. Seriously. Noah complained about that after listing his background.

Of course, it’s important to note where he stands on the issues.

On climate change: He’s a supporter of the Green New Deal and considers climate change a national security threat. He wants the U.S. to stay in the Paris Agreement and he’s one of 407 mayors who signed a pact to adhere to its ideals.

Gun control: Buttigieg backs universal background checks and is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that advocates for gun control legislation.

War: The Afghanistan veteran wants to see the U.S. pull out of Afghanistan.

Electoral college: He’s advocated for the demise of the system.

Health care: He’s a supporter of Medicare for All and single-payer health care.

Immigration: He believes there should be a path toward citizenship for undocumented immigrants and is a supporter of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He’s opposed to President Donald Trump’s aggressive border actions and doesn’t want to see more troops stationed at the border.

LGBTQ rights: He wants to see federal nondiscrimination protections passed for LGBTQ Americans in the Federal Equality Act.

Buttigieg teased an April 14 announcement Thursday morning, something most expect to be his official announcement of entering the race. He’s definitely someone to watch as the presidential season heats up.

OUTspoken is published weekly in the Times-Standard. Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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