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The Moment Mayor Pete Caught My Attention, and Why He’s Worthy of Yours, Too

by Jud Ashman, mayor of Gaithersburg, MD – Jan 14, 2020 (MarylandMatters.org)

It was June 27, 2019. The spotlights streamed down on 10 presidential candidates standing on the Arsht Center stage in Miami. NBC had brought in an A-List group of moderators and, as the evening began, it was clear they came prepared to lead the candidates through back and forth discourse on the issues one would reasonably expect: health care, the economy, and immigration.

That was how it went for nearly an hour. Then, Rachel Maddow directed a question specifically to Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It was a custom-crafted zinger of the sort that haunts and keeps elected officials up at night. The kind that focuses everyone in the room and draws a bead of sweat even from those who didn’t have to answer. It was the kind of question designed to hold someone accountable for something unpleasant.

How Campaigns Reveal Character

Political campaigns reveal character in two fundamental ways. First, in Presentation: the stories candidates tell about themselves and their platforms. Second, in Reaction: how candidates respond to unanticipated circumstances and things over which they have no control. Most do a pretty good job at the former. It’s the latter that separates the good from the great.

Before that debate, I was only marginally aware of Pete Buttigieg. But what I knew seemed solid. There was the resume, including Harvard, the Rhodes Scholarship and time at Oxford. There was the meritorious service in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Productive experience in the private sector. And there was the mayoral service. (Slight digression: Not only does mayoral service offer legitimate executive experience, but I’d argue, it’s an even more immediately-accountable situation than serving as President. Most mayors are accessible to their constituents almost all the time. Mayors don’t get to seclude themselves in the White House. They’re in line at the grocery store, at the next table at the local watering hole, cutting a ribbon at the town center.)

And then there was Pete’s message and delivery — unifying, remarkably articulate. Even those of us in the political class, for whom oratory is a stock-in-trade, regard Mayor Pete’s skill as extraordinary.

So, when Rachel Maddow posed the question, I was generally inclined to like Mayor Pete – and I would’ve given him solid high scores on how he’d presented himself.

Then Came the Question

Maddow spoke of festering racial tensions spurred by a recent officer-involved shooting in Buttigieg’s jurisdiction of South Bend, Indiana. She pointed out that, although African Americans comprise 26 percent of the city’s population, only 6 percent of South Bend’s police force at the time was black

“Why has that not improved over your two terms as Mayor?” Maddow asked.

“Because I couldn’t get it done,” Mayor Pete began, “my community is in anguish right now… A black man, Eric Logan, [was] killed by a white officer. I’m not allowed to take sides until the investigation comes back. The officer said he was attacked with a knife, but he didn’t have his body camera on. It’s a mess. And we’re hurting. And I can walk you through all of the things that we have done as a community – all of the steps that we took, from bias training to de-escalation – but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. And when I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.

“This is an issue that is facing our community and so many communities around the country. And, until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism, whatever this particular issue teaches us, we will be left with the bigger problem: the fact that there’s a wall of mistrust, put up one racist act at a time; not just from what’s happened in the past, but from what’s happening in the country in the present. It threatens the well-being of every community. And I am determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching, feels the exact same thing; a feeling not of fear, but of safety. I am determined to bring that day about.” (Crowd applauds)

Character Revealed in Six Words

I had to rewind and watch it again. “Because I couldn’t get it done.” Did he just say that? Now he had my attention.

This was probably not Pete Buttigieg’s favorite moment of 2019, but I found it remarkable. I can’t recall seeing anything like it in such a high-stakes presidential debate in recent history. Why? Because Mayor Pete accepted accountability.

There it was. On this debate stage, during the course of several hours of candidate-after-candidate pivoting and launching into poll-tested talking points all specifically designed to channel those bright, streaming stage lights and reflect themselves in the most perfect possible radiance – and after decades of debates just like it: Pete Buttigieg was different.

He didn’t cast blame. South Bend has a police chief, a human resources office, a strong City Council and other layers of oversight of their police department. We heard none of that from Mayor Pete.

He didn’t point to some other jurisdiction, or someone from a different political party and say ‘well, what about them, and how they handled (insert similar situation) poorly?’

He didn’t pivot into a discourse of programs that he’s brought about to help turn South Bend around, although there’s plenty to point to on that score.

And he didn’t make excuses.

Mayor Pete acknowledged an uncomfortable truth. He took responsibility. The buck stopped there. That’s what leadership looks like.

Leaders embrace accountability, even when things don’t work out the way you’d want them to. They reflect. They listen. They learn. And they become better leaders.

(In fact, only a couple weeks later Pete rolled out his “Douglass Plan,” a set of initiatives meant to dismantle historically racist structures and systems, particularly in the areas of health, education and criminal justice. No other candidate has put together anything as thoughtful or comprehensive on the subject.)

That’s the moment when Mayor Pete caught my attention, and everything I’ve seen since has served to underscore these truths about his character.

My fellow Marylanders, we have the opportunity to support a rare and exceptional candidate in Pete Buttigieg. I hope you’ll give him a good look and join me in supporting him in the Democratic Primary here in April, and then for President in November.

Maryland Congressman Anthony G. Brown endorses Pete Buttigieg for President


After the events of the last few days, it is clear today more than ever that we need a steady and thoughtful Commander-in-Chief rather than the irresponsible, uninformed, self-obsessed, blustering person who currently occupies the Oval Office.

In less than a year, we will have the opportunity to choose that leader who will make us stronger at home and abroad. My choice is Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Pete has earned my endorsement and now I have a request for you. As we are counting down the days until the Iowa Caucuses, will you consider making a contribution — even just $3 — to support the hard and transformative work of his campaign?

After serving three decades in the Army and Army Reserve and now as Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m acutely aware that the top priority for the President should be the security and safety of our nation — and I look forward to waking up the day after Trump to a Commander-in-Chief like Pete.

To these global challenges, Pete brings his deep intellect and experience, grounded in his time in a war zone. A decade after I landed in a C-130 in Iraq for a one-year military tour of duty, Pete took a leave as mayor and stepped off a C-17 transport in Afghanistan. The lessons he took from that conflict shape his understanding of America’s role in the world and make him uniquely suited for this moment. As a soldier and a citizen, I value Pete’s experience.

As president, Pete will rebuild America’s relationships and credibility with our allies, so that the United States will lead the world in confronting global threats from climate change to rising authoritarianism. He will work to bring wars like the one he served in to a responsible end. He is clear-eyed about the interests and values that motivate our foreign policy and understands that the world needs America’s leadership at its best.

Pete will bring that same leadership to make us stronger here at home. For the past eight years, he has steered a diverse, working-class, industrial city into a brighter, more prosperous future. A mayor knows what it means to get things done, deliver results, and bring people together to turn a community around.

That’s particularly true when it comes to advocating for and empowering communities of color, like the ones I represent in Maryland. Pete made hard-fought progress in South Bend in the African-American community, but he understands that much work remains and there are no easy solutions to ingrained problems.

From serving in Kabul to serving in South Bend, Pete’s life has been about service to others. He listens. He connects. He’s unflappable. Whether he’s sitting down with entrepreneurs in Baltimore or farmers in Iowa, Pete shows a commitment to build trust and deliver for every American. As more Americans get to know Pete, I’m confident they will see the authentic leader we need right now: a president who can bring us together and pick up the pieces.

If you share my belief that Pete is the best candidate in the field to lead our country into a safer, more just, and more unified future, consider making a donation now to ensure his campaign has the resources they need to compete in the crowded Democratic primary field.

Many exceptional friends and leaders have stepped forward, all of whom would be infinitely preferable to Donald Trump. But of all the candidates, I believe Pete Buttigieg is the right one to take on and defeat Trump and, more importantly, to lead us into a better future.

Thank you,

Congressman Anthony G. Brown, MD-04


Pete Buttigieg wins first endorsement from a black member of Congress

by Chelsea Janes – Jan. 9, 2020 (WashingtonPost.com, abridged)

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg received his first endorsement from a member of the Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday when former Maryland lieutenant governor Anthony G. Brown announced his support for the outgoing mayor of South Bend, Ind.

“I firmly believe that Pete Buttigieg is the guy to lead our nation after we defeat Donald Trump and have to pick up the pieces and repair the damage of the last four years,” Brown said in an interview. “He’s well-versed and studied and really diligent about the issues from a policy standpoint.”

Brown, 58, is a relatively junior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, having been elected to Congress in 2016. Two years earlier, Brown lost a governor’s race in heavily Democratic Maryland to current Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, in part because of a significant drop-off in Democratic turnout.

Brown acknowledged Buttigieg has received criticism for how he has approached racial issues in South Bend, but he said Buttigieg has not shied away from the critiques.

“We all suffer criticism,” Brown said. “The question is, how well do you take that criticism and sort of transform it into an overall constructive approach to addressing the challenges that are being raised? And I think he is really good at that and is open to it.”

Buttigieg’s campaign plans to deploy Brown on the campaign trail in the coming weeks, much of which the candidate will spend in Iowa during the final push to the Feb. 3 caucuses. That effort also includes new television ads, announced Tuesday, that will be airing in each of the four early primary states.

In an interview, Brown said he paid close attention to the Democratic debates and to Buttigieg’s speeches over the summer. The arguments he heard and things he saw from the candidate impressed him. When the Buttigieg campaign reached out to Brown, he met with the candidate and trailed him during a swing through Iowa in late December.

“When I went out there and I attended a lot of events, my ear was listening to him but my eyes were on the audience,” Brown said. “How are people reacting to this midsized city mayor who is fairly new to the American electorate but is attracting a lot of attention because of his ideas and because of his openness?”

He concluded that Buttigieg is “very, very consistent and connects well to the audience.”

Brown — who represents Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, just outside Washington — has other connections with Buttigieg. Both attended Harvard University and both are military veterans.

Brown served 30 years in the military, including a tour in Iraq, and said Buttigieg’s own service was an important part of his decision. He also defended the 37-year-old candidate against concerns by some voters that he lacks experiences, saying the notions of age and experience “need to be decoupled.”

“He’s got eight years as mayor,” Brown said, noting that he served under Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor. “I saw firsthand the important work that mayors do, whether it’s public health, whether it’s public education. It’s just a variety of issues dealing with diverse communities.”

Brown was at … a gathering in Des Moines hosted by the local NAACP chapter and a Des Moines-based group called Urban Dreams. Buttigieg fielded several questions from black voters about his plans and his record on racial justice.

“He didn’t shy away from the fact that South Bend, like Baltimore, like so many cities, have challenges, and that he’s learned a lot in addressing that,” said Brown, adding that his Douglass Plan shows he intends to seriously tackle racial disparities.

The campaign has also sought to put Buttigieg in small-group settings with African American and Latinx leaders in Iowa, Nevada and elsewhere as part of an attempt to build relationships and trust in communities of color.

He’s demonstrated it out there, the ability to pull together a diverse coalition of people to take on these issues,” Brown said. “The issues that he was speaking to when I was in Iowa, the same issues that have come up during debates — these are issues that resonate in all communities across America.”

Buttigieg Rolls Out List of Maryland Endorsements

by Josh Kurtz – Nov 1, 2019 (MarylandMatters.org)

Timed to coincide with the Maryland Democratic Party’s gala Saturday, the presidential campaign of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is rolling out a list of Maryland elected officials who have endorsed him.

Former state Democratic chairwoman Susan W. Turnbull has already been with Buttigieg for several months, but the roster of supporters has grown to include key state lawmakers, led by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) and House Judiciary Chairman Luke V. Clippinger (D-Baltimore City) — two of the most prominent openly gay elected officials in the state.

Also on the list: Dels. Kirill Reznik (D-Montgomery) and Patrick Young (D-Baltimore County), Washington County Register of Wills Jason Malott, Howard County Register of Wills Byron McFarlane, and brewery owner Julie Verratti, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor last year.

[read in full at MarylandMatters.org]