Openly gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, appears to be building some momentum in his bid to become the Democratic candidate for president in 2020.
This past weekend, Buttigieg took part in a CNN town hall at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Also taking solo turns on the stage were Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland.
But by many accounts, it was Mayor Pete who found the most traction.
While he isn’t out-polling former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg showed he knew how to make the most of an opportunity.
Veteran political expert and chief strategist for the Obama campaigns, David Axelrod, gave Buttigieg high marks and predicted an uptick in his standing among the other candidates.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 11, 2019
During his hour onstage, the 37-year-old displayed impressive poise and composure while throwing some shade on the Trump/Pence administration, including his now infamous “cheerleader for the porn star presidency” description of Vice President Mike Pence.
The former Navy intelligence officer and Afghanistan war veteran also took aim at Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, who has defended the invasion of Iraq for years.
Referencing Bolton’s suggestion that the U.S. use military force in the current conflict in Venezuela, Buttigieg replied, “I don’t understand how somebody leading us into the Iraq War is allowed near that situation.”
He also addressed some issues specific to the LGBTQ community.
The two-term mayor reaffirmed his support for the Equality Act, which would bring uniform civil rights protections to LGBTQs across the nation by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil righs laws.
He also called for an end to the “war on trans Americans.”
“For a transgender teen to get the signal from the White House that the highest officials in the land can’t tell the difference between her and a predator and make it harder for her to go to the bathroom shows you just how out of whack the climate is in our country right now. We’ve got to end the war on trans Americans and we need a federal Equality Act that would say that you cannot be fired just because of who you are or just because you love.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “We’ve got to end the war on trans Americans and we need a federal equality act that would say that you cannot be fired just because of who you are or just because you love.” pic.twitter.com/85wKS9OLho
— The Hill (@thehill) March 11, 2019
There was also a fairly innocuous but human moment that occurred when CNN’s Jake Tapper tried to clarify how to pronounce the mayor’s last name.
Noting that Buttigieg’s husband has indicated a slightly different pronunciation (“I don’t want to get in the middle of a marital squabble, but…”), Tapper asked the mayor for the definitive answer.
Buttigieg said his name quickly (which sounded like ‘Booda-judge’) but added that either option worked, and at home, he just goes by “Mayor Pete.”
The day when reporters blithely ask a presidential candidate about daily interactions with his husband has come.
This moment during the @PeteButtigieg town hall with @jaketapper made me emotional. A discussion of something silly like the spousal bickering of a same-sex couple treated normally is something I wish I had as a kid. We don’t want special rights. We want what everyone else has pic.twitter.com/swfwTsUkwi
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) March 11, 2019
Clearly sensing the appearance had gone well, Buttigieg was the only participant in the town hall to make a direct appeal from the stage for donations to his campaign.
According to CNN, Buttigieg had the single biggest fundraising day of his 2020 campaign after his appearance raising more than $600,000 from over 22,200 donations in the 24 hours after the event televised on CNN.