‘Maltese’ mayor Pete Buttigieg could be mulling 2020 run for US President

Two-term mayor, Rhodes scholar and navy veteran Pete Buttigieg is being billed as one of several new generation Democrats eyeing the White House

Mayor Pete Buttigieg (right)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (right)

Perhaps what newspapers such as the Washington Post are struggling with today is South Bend mayor Peter Buttigieg’s surname – ‘Buddha-judge’ is one phonetic variant, another is ‘boo-tah-juhj’.

But at 37, the son of Notre Dame academic Prof. Joseph A. Buttigieg is now being seen as a possible dark horse in the 2020 race for Democratic nominee for the US presidency. Known to most simply as ‘Mayor Pete’, the young Buttigieg is a Rhodes Scolar and a Navy veteran who has held the Indiana town’s mayorship since the age of 29.

Now he is being touted as one of a number of potential candidates who could shake things up in the forthcoming race to take Trump out of the White House, joining the likes of former Democratic representative Beto O’ Rourke, 46, or Julian Castro, the 44-year-old former San Antonio mayor.

The novelty would be how these candidates are the product of a radically diverse generation: Castro would become the first Latino to win his party’s nomination, but Buttigieg – who married his husband last year – would be the first openly gay nominee from a major political party.

The Washington Post seems to think there’s something about Buttigieg: “‘normal’ and ‘regular’ are not adjectives that apply to the son of a Maltese immigrant father and an Army brat mom who grew up in decaying South Bend, got himself into Harvard, summer-interned for Ted Kennedy, worked for John Kerry’s presidential campaign, won a Rhodes Scholarship, learned Arabic in Tunisia, landed a jet-setting consultant’s job, left it to return to his beat-up hometown and become the youngest mayor of a midsize U.S. city, transformed that city into a national model of renewal, and then — deep breath — volunteered for active duty in Afghanistan while serving as mayor, came out as gay in the local newspaper, married a schoolteacher live on YouTube, turned heads in a dark-horse bid to lead the Democratic National Committee, and had the New York Times’s Frank Bruni gushing about him as potentially the ‘First Gay President’— all by age 36.”

Buttigieg has yet to announce his decision on whether to run for president. “I think most people are thinking: ‘Why not?’ They think all the rules have been broken, that anybody can run. I think some of the rules have been broken, but there's only one way to find out which ones.”

The reason Buttigieg has emerged as a possible dark horse for a race that is likely to include heavyweights like former Vice-President Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, is because of his impending book release: usually a marker to blow the whistle on higher political ambitions.

Buttigieg has already been mentioned by Barak Obama as a politician to watch. In 2017, he made an unsuccessful bid for Democratic National Committee chairman. He also filled in for Biden as speaker at an annual gathering of Illinois Democrats. He made his mark in 2014, when he left his job to serve as a lieutenant with the Navy Reserve in Afghanistan in 2014.

As mayor, Buttigieg has been responsible for the regeneration of the depressed South Bend city, which neighbours the University of Notre Dame where his father holds a professorship in modern European literature. Buttigieg studied at Harvard.

But on Monday he announced he won’t seek a third term. Since he is not interested in Congress, he could use his failed run for DNC chair to become one of up to three dozen Democrats seeking to challenge President Trump. “For most of the decade now, I have given everything that I can to helping this city get to a new future,” he said. “And I love this job. And I’m mindful that it may well be the best job that I will ever have. But it’s also not the kind of job you do forever.”