After rising from relative obscurity to become a viable White House candidate, Pete Buttigieg ends his campaign
Caren Bohan, USA TODAY
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced he was ending the presidential campaign in which he set history as the first openly gay man to win delegates in the race for the nomination of a major political party.
His identity as a member of the LGBTQ community aside, Buttigieg's success in the campaign was a remarkable achievement. As the mayor of a mid-size Midwestern town, he rose from relative political obscurity to become a viable candidate for the White House.
His narrow, one-delegate victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa was overshadowed by the vote-counting chaos there – and his win remained in doubt until it was confirmed after a final recanvass and recount were completed. But with his victory, Buttigieg achieved what would have been considered politically impossible just a decade ago.
He said his campaign's success taught him to "believe in American belonging" and that it left him "remembering how it felt to be an Indiana teenager, wondering if he would ever belong in this world."
"Wondering if something deep inside him meant that he would forever be an outsider. That he might never wear the uniform, never be accepted, never even know love. Now that same person is standing in front of you, a mayor, a veteran, happily married, and one step closer to becoming the next president of the United States."
Buttigieg came out in a 2015 op-ed in the South Bend Tribune, months before being elected to his second mayoral term with 80% of the 10,000-plus votes cast.
In June, he told The Des Moines Register that he did not want his sexuality to be the only thing he was known for.
"I am proud of who I am," Buttigieg said. "I’m certainly very proud of my marriage and my husband. We don’t shy away from that. It’s also not the only thing that defines me."
Buttigieg, a former Navy intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, was one of the few military veterans in the race. As a Rhodes Scholar with degrees from Harvard University and the University of Oxford who speaks multiple languages, he also had some of the highest academic credentials in the race,
During the campaign, he pitched himself as a moderate alternative to progressive candidates like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one who was also younger and more in tune with the current Democratic party than former Vice President Joe Biden.
At 38, he was the youngest of the presidential candidates, yet he failed to connect with voters under age 30, who, ironically, tended to favor the 78-year-old Sanders. On the other hand, he performed well with older voters.
'I want to be brave like you': Boy, 9, asks Pete Buttigieg for help coming out as gay © Win McNamee, Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg greets Zachary Ro, who asked Buttigieg to help him tell others he is gay, while the candidate was speaking at a town hall campaign event at the Denver Airport Convention Center February 22, 2020.
From the beginning, Buttigieg's candidacy was haunted by headlines about his inability to win the support of minority voters, particularly African-Americans. Despite this efforts to make strides with black and Latino communities, his poll numbers remained dismal with those demographics. And that lack of support left him unable to compete as the race moved into more diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina.
During the campaign, Buttigieg faced criticism for his response to a police shooting of an African-American man in South Bend, as well as the lack of diversity on the town's police force.
His campaign did find enthusiastic support among wealthy Democratic donors and was a top recipient of donations from Wall Street contributors. Those contributions led Sanders to paint him as the candidate of the powerful corporations, who would not represent the interests of working Americans.
Buttigieg, who trailed only Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in contributions of less than $200, defended his campaign's acceptance of large-donor donations. He told Fox News that while he was "not a fan of the current campaign finance system" he was "also insistent that we have got to go into this with all of the support we can get."