More than 4,500 supporters crammed into the freezing cold and leaking former Studebaker plant on Sunday to hear South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially declare that he’d seek the Democratic nomination for President.
“My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I’m a proud son of South Bend, Indiana, and I am running for President of the United States.”
The line waiting in the cold and rain to get into the event snaked around several times in front of the building before winding Northward along South Lafayette Boulevard.
Charlie Starkman came in from Detroit. He was one of the first in line, along with a few friends that also hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia and Louisville, Kentucky. He says the midwestern mayor strikes a chord with him.
“I think we learned in the last election that the midwest is where this is going to be won. And he, to me, is the candidate that represents the values of so many people in this part of the country that don’t always feel like they have a voice.”
Buttigieg said he knows his candidacy is different.
“Now I recognize the audacity of doing this as a midwestern, millennial mayor,” Buttigieg said. “More than a little bold, at age 37, to seek the highest office in the land.”
If elected Buttigieg would check the boxes on a lot of firsts; the first openly gay president, the first Mayor, and the youngest.
Philip Normal is a Councillor for the London, England borough of Lambeth. He and his partner travelled to South Bend for the announcement.
“So from gay politician to gay politician, yeah, I’d like to thank Pete for just giving us inspiration.”
Three other mayors gave speeches before Buttigieg. One was West Sacramento, California Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.
“Pete Buttigieg is the Maltese-American, left-handed, episcopalian, gay, millennial, war veteran that America didn’t know we needed,” Cabaldon rattled off to applause.
In addition to those inside, more than 1,500 waited outside, where Buttigieg spoke first, before coming inside to make his announcement.
Even for those who made it inside, it was still cold and wet, but Buttigieg said that doesn’t put a damper on anything.
“It’s a little cold out...it’s a little cold inside too. But we’ve had it with winter. You and I have the chance to usher in a new American spring,” he said. “So with hope in our hearts and fire in our bellies, let’s get to work and make history.”