WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind. and Afghanistan veteran, launched a longshot bid for the White House on Wednesday by forming a presidential exploratory committee.
If he were to win the Democratic nomination, Buttigieg would be the first openly gay man to do so.
In an announcement video where he talked about the need for a “fresh start” in the White House, there are scenes in which he is featured along with his husband, Chasten Gleeman. His website refers to him as “millennial Mayor, Afghanistan war veteran, and husband.”
Buttigieg does not mention Donald Trump by name in the video, but he does address the president’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
“The corruption, the lying, the fighting, the crisis, it has got to end,” Buttigieg says in the video. “The reality is there is no going back, and there is no such thing as again in the real world. We can’t look for greatness in the past.”
Buttigieg is a Rhodes scholar and, after his election to mayor of South Bend in 2012, has been considered a rising star within the Democratic party. He ran for chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2017, but lost to Tom Perez.
Buttigieg joins an ever-growing field of contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced her bid on Monday, joining Julian Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary and mayor of San Antonio. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have each announced the formation of exploratory committees, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) says she plans to run.
“I’m obviously not stepping onto this stage as the most famous person in the conversation, but I belong to a party whose characteristic has always been to look for fresh voices, new leadership and big ideas, and I think that is what 2020 is going to be all about,” Buttigieg told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
Others in the race include John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, who announced his bid in 2017, and Richard Ojeda, a former U.S. state senator and retired Army major.
Buttigieg’s entry adds to the diversity of the presidential field and, when it comes to LGBT rights, signals how far the party has shifted. Just over 10 years ago, when Barack Obama ran for president, he opposed same-sex marriage although he favored civil unions. A generation before that, candidates refused to even accept donations from gay and lesbian groups.
Buttigieg came out in a 2015 essay in the South Bend Tribune. At his press conference, he noted that Mike Pence was the governor of Indiana at the time and he thought it would be a “career death sentence.” Instead, Buttigieg was easily re-elected that year.
He is not the first openly gay man to seek a party nomination. In 2012, Fred Karger, an activist, GOP strategist and former actor, mounted a longshot bid. His campaign was chronicled in the documentary, “Fred.”