Pete Buttigieg

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Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Buttigieg in June 2019
32nd Mayor of South Bend
Assumed office
January 1, 2012
Preceded bySteve Luecke
Personal details
Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg[1]

(1982-01-19) January 19, 1982 (age 37)
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Chasten Buttigieg (m. 2018)
MotherJ. Anne Montgomery
FatherJoseph Buttigieg
Alma materHarvard University (AB)
Pembroke College, Oxford (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service United States Naval Reserve
Service years2009–2017
RankUS Navy O3 infobox.svg Lieutenant
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan

Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg[1] ( /ˈbʊtɪɪ/ BUUT-ih-jij;[2][3] born January 19, 1982) is an American politician, former military officer, and combat veteran who has served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012. He is running for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2020 United States presidential election.

After graduating from Harvard University, and then from Pembroke College, Oxford, on a Rhodes Scholarship, Buttigieg worked as a consultant at McKinsey and Company.[4] From 2009 to 2017 he served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve, attaining the rank of lieutenant and deploying to Afghanistan in 2014.[5][6]

Buttigieg was elected mayor of South Bend in 2011 and reelected in 2015. Before his reelection, he came out publicly as gay. On April 14, 2019, Buttigieg announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in 2020, after having formed an exploratory committee in January 2019.[7][8][9] His platform includes support for reducing income inequality, pro-environmental policies, cooperation between the Democratic Party and organized labor, universal background checks for firearms purchases, the Equality Act, and preserving the DACA program for children of illegal immigrants. Buttigieg also supports reforms that would end gerrymandering, overturn the Citizens United v. FEC decision, and abolish the Electoral College.[10][11]

Early life and education[edit]

Buttigieg was born in South Bend, Indiana, the only child of Joseph Buttigieg and Jennifer Anne (Montgomery) Buttigieg.[12] His father, who was from Ħamrun, Malta, studied to be a Jesuit priest before emigrating to the United States and embarking on a secular career as a professor of literature at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.[13][14] The surname Buttigieg is of Maltese origin.[15] His father was a professor at Notre Dame for 29 years.[16]

In 2000 Buttigieg was valedictorian of his high school senior class at St. Joseph High School in South Bend.[17] That year, he won first prize in the JFK Profiles in Courage essay contest awarded by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. He traveled to Boston to accept the award and met Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy's family. Buttigieg's winning subject was the integrity and political courage demonstrated by U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of only two independent politicians in Congress.[18][19]

Buttigieg attended Harvard, majoring in history and literature.[20] There he was president of the Harvard Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee and worked on the institute's annual study of youth attitudes on politics.[21][22] He wrote his undergraduate thesis on the influence of puritanism on U.S. foreign policy as reflected in Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American.[23]

Upon graduating from Harvard in 2004, Buttigieg was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and in 2007 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree with first-class honors in philosophy, politics and economics from Pembroke College, Oxford.


Early career and military service[edit]

Before graduating from college, Buttigieg worked as an investigative intern at WMAQ-TV, Chicago's NBC news affiliate. He also interned for Jill Long Thompson's unsuccessful 2002 congressional campaign.[24] He later advised her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign.[25][26]

From 2004 to 2005, Buttigieg worked in Washington, D.C., as conference director for former secretary of defense William Cohen's strategic consulting firm, The Cohen Group. He also spent several months working on Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, where he specialized in policy.[27] After earning his Oxford degree, he became a consultant at McKinsey & Company[28][29] and a fellow at the Truman National Security Project[30]. In 2007, while volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Buttigieg was influenced to join the military after seeing the disparities between communities that were missing large amounts of young people due to military service and those that had barely any serving.[31]

In 2009, Buttigieg became an ensign in the Navy Reserve and trained to become a naval intelligence officer. He deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014.[32][33][34] While deployed, Buttigieg was part of a unit assigned to identify and disrupt terrorist finance networks. Part of this was done at Bagram Air Base, but he also worked as an armed driver for his commander on over 100 trips into Kabul. Buttigieg has jokingly called this role "military Uber", because he had to watch out for ambushes and explosive devices along the roads and make sure the vehicle was guarded.[31] In order to better communicate with Afghans, he also taught himself to speak some Dari (a variety of the Persian language). Buttigieg was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2017.[35][36][37]

Buttigieg was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer of Indiana in 2010. He received 37.5% of the vote, losing to Republican incumbent Richard Mourdock.[38][39]

Mayor of South Bend[edit]

First term[edit]

Pictured is the County-City Building in downtown South Bend. The County-City Building houses the Office of the Mayor, as well as many other municipal and public offices.
The County-City Building in downtown South Bend houses the Office of the Mayor

Buttigieg was elected mayor of South Bend in the November 2011 election, with 74% of the vote.[40] He took office in January 2012 at age 29, becoming the second-youngest mayor in South Bend history—Schuyler Colfax III became mayor at age 28 in 1898[41]—and the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with at least 100,000 residents.[40][42]

In 2012 Buttigieg demoted South Bend police chief Darryl Boykins after a federal investigation found that the police department had improperly recorded telephone calls.[43] He also fired the police department's communications director, who had "discovered the recordings but continued to record the line at Boykins' command".[43] The police communications director alleged that the recordings captured four senior police officers making racist remarks and discussing illegal acts.[43][44]

Buttigieg has written that his initial decision to reappoint Boykins (the city's first ever African American police chief) was his "first serious mistake as mayor". Boykins sued the city for racial discrimination over being demoted by the mayor,[45] arguing that the taping policy existed under previous police chiefs, who were white.[46] Buttigieg opted to settle the suits brought by Boykins, the communications director, and the four officers out of court, resulting in the city's spending over $800,000 on out-of-court settlements.[43][47] In 2015 a federal judge ruled that Boykins's recordings violated the Federal Wiretap Act.[44] Buttigieg came under pressure from political opponents to release the tapes, but said that doing so would be a violation of the Wiretap Act.[44] He called for the eradication of racial bias in the police force.[43] An Indiana court is hearing a case for the release of the tapes.[48]

Buttigieg was named mayor of the year for 2013 by, tying with third-term New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg.[49][50] In 2014 The Washington Post called Buttigieg "the most interesting mayor you've never heard of" based on his youth, education, and military background.[40] In 2016 New York Times columnist Frank Bruni published a column praising his work as mayor with a headline asking if he might be "the first gay president".[51]

One of Buttigieg's signature programs has been the "Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative" (known locally as "1,000 Properties in 1,000 Days"), a project to repair or demolish blighted properties across South Bend.[52][53] The goal was reached by the program's scheduled end date in November 2015.[54]

Buttigieg served for seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, returning to the United States on September 23, 2014.[55] While deployed, he was assigned to the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, a counterterrorism unit that targeted Taliban insurgency financing.[56][57] In his absence, Deputy Mayor Mark Neal, South Bend's city comptroller, served as executive from February 2014 until Buttigieg returned to his role as mayor in October 2014.[55]

Second term[edit]

Buttigieg in a suit
Buttigieg at a 2017 Democratic National Convention event.

In 2014, Buttigieg announced that he would seek a second term.[58] He won the Democratic primary with 78% of the vote, defeating Henry Davis Jr., the city councilman from the Second District.[59] In November 2015 he was elected to his second term as mayor with over 80% of the vote, defeating Republican Kelly Jones.[60]

In 2015, during the controversy over Indiana Senate Bill 101—the original version of which was widely criticized for allowing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people—Buttigieg emerged as a leading opponent of the legislation, and shortly thereafter came out as gay to express his solidarity.[61][62]  

In 2013, Buttigieg proposed a "Smart Streets" urban development program to improve South Bend's downtown area, and in early 2015—after traffic studies and public hearings—he secured a bond issue for the program backed by tax increment financing.[43][63][64] "Smart Streets" was aimed at improving economic development and urban vibrancy as well as road safety.[65] The project involved the conversion of one-way streets in downtown to two-way streets; traffic-calming measures; the widening of sidewalks; streetside beautification (including the planting of trees and installation of decorative brickwork); the addition of bike lanes;[64] and the introduction of roundabouts.[65] Elements of the project were finished in 2016,[43] and it was officially completed in 2017.[65] The project was credited with spurring private development in the city.[64]

As mayor, Buttigieg was a leading figure behind the creation of a nightly laser-lighting display along downtown South Bend's St. Joseph River trail as public art. The project cost $700,000, which was raised from private funds.[66] The "River Lights" installation was unveiled in May 2015, as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebrations.[43] Under Buttigieg, South Bend launched a $50-million investment in the city's parks, many of which had been neglected during the preceding decades.[66]

In December 2018, Buttigieg announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor of South Bend.[67]

After a white South Bend police officer shot and killed an African American man in June 2019, Buttigieg was drawn from his presidential campaign to focus on the emerging public reaction. On June 23 he presided over a town hall attended by disaffected activists from the African American community as well as relatives of the slain man. The local police union accused Buttigieg of making decisions for political gain.[68][69]

2017 DNC chair election[edit]

In January 2017 Buttigieg announced his candidacy for chair of the Democratic National Committee in its 2017 chairmanship election.[70] He "built a national profile as an emerging dark horse in the race for the chairmanship with the backing of former DNC chairman Howard Dean" and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley.[71][72] Buttigieg "campaigned on the idea that the aging Democratic Party needed to empower its millennial members".[71] He withdrew from the race on the day of the election.[71]

2020 presidential election[edit]

Buttigieg announcing his candidacy for president in 2020 on April 14, 2019.

On January 23, 2019, Buttigieg announced that he was creating an exploratory committee for a candidacy for president of the United States in the 2020 election. Buttigieg is seeking the Democratic nomination.[7][73][74] If elected, he would be the youngest and the first openly gay American president.[7] He officially launched his campaign on April 14, 2019, in South Bend.[8][75]

Buttigieg describes himself as a progressive and a supporter of democratic capitalism.[76] He favors universal healthcare with retention of private insurance; dialogue and cooperation between the Democratic Party and organized labor; universal background checks for firearms purchases; and environmentalist policies to combat pollution and climate change, which Buttigieg views as a national security threat. He supports subsidizing solar panels and the Paris Agreement; after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, Buttigieg was one of many U.S. mayors to sign the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, pledging that his city would continue to adhere to the agreement. Buttigieg supports the Equality Act, a bill extending federal non-discrimination protection to LGBT people. He opposes the Trump Administration's ban on transgender personnel. Buttigieg supports the DACA program and federal legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for youths brought to the country illegally as children.[77][76] He supports abortion rights.[78] Buttigieg identifies regulatory capture as a significant problem in American society.[76]

Personal life[edit]

St. James Cathedral in South Bend, where Buttigieg is a member.

Buttigieg is a Christian,[79][80][81] and has said his faith has had a strong influence in his life.[82][51] His parents baptized him in a Catholic church as an infant and he attended Catholic schools.[83] While at Oxford University, Buttigieg began to attend Christ Church Cathedral and said he felt "more-or-less Anglican" by the time he returned to South Bend.[83] St. Augustine, James Martin, and Garry Wills are among his religious influences.[82] A member of the Episcopal Church, Buttigieg is a congregant at the Cathedral of St. James in downtown South Bend.[81]

Buttigieg taught himself to speak a measure of Norwegian and has some knowledge of Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari Persian, and French in addition to his native English,[84][85][86] though his level of fluency in those languages is unclear. His campaign has not commented on his language abilities, but he has been recorded speaking foreign languages on various occasions, including interviews on Univision on May 8, 2019 and Telemundo on May 20, 2019.[87][88][89] Buttigieg plays guitar and piano,[90][91] and in 2013 performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra as a guest piano soloist with Ben Folds.[92][93] Buttigieg was a 2014 Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow.[94] He was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Fenn Award in 2015.[95]

In a June 2015 piece in the South Bend Tribune, Buttigieg came out as gay.[96] He also is the first openly gay presidential candidate for the Democratic Party and the second overall, after Fred Karger, a Republican.[97]

In December 2017 Buttigieg announced his engagement to Chasten Glezman, who has been a junior high school teacher for eight years; they had been dating since August 2015 after meeting on the dating app Hinge.[98][99][100] They were married on June 16, 2018, in a private ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James.[101][80] As of April 2019 Chasten also uses the surname Buttigieg.[102]


  • Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future. New York: Liveright. 2019. ISBN 9781631494376.


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External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Michael W. Griffith
Democratic nominee for Indiana State Treasurer
Succeeded by
Mike Boland
Preceded by
Steve Luecke
Democratic nominee for Mayor of South Bend
2011, 2015
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Steve Luecke
Mayor of South Bend
January 1, 2012 – present