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Mayor Pete Buttigieg: 7 things you need to know

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By Roey Hadar

Gwen Ifill Fellow

Pete Buttigieg is one of over a dozen contenders in the Democratic field in 2020. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor formally announced his run on April 14, nearly three months after he first launched an exploratory committee.

A 37-year-old Harvard graduate, Rhodes Scholar and Afghanistan veteran, Buttigieg has been a mayor since 2012 and has called for more of a focus on both millennial issues and on revitalizing blighted areas of the Rust Belt and the Midwest. If elected, Buttigieg could become the first openly gay president.

Here are seven things you need to know about the youngest contender currently in the Democratic field:

  • It’s pronounced “boot-edge-edge.” Buttigieg has answered questions on his name pronunciation on the campaign trail and has said he sees his distinctive name as an asset. The name is Maltese in origin, as his father, a professor at Notre Dame, moved to the U.S. from Malta to pursue postgraduate work.
  • At age 37, he is the youngest candidate in the field so far. If elected, Buttigieg would be the youngest U.S. president in history. Despite his youth, however, he still has seven years of elected experience. He is in his second term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
  • He has a record of academic success, including winning a Rhodes Scholarship. Buttigieg did post-graduate work at Oxford, earning a second bachelor's degree there after winning the prestigious scholarship. He also won the Profile in Courage Essay contest put on by the John F. Kennedy Library as a high school senior in 2000. In his essay, he commended the courage of one of his current opponents, then-Rep. Bernie Sanders, for being one of the few independents in Congress.
  • Buttigieg is a U.S. Navy veteran. He served a seven-month deployment in Afghanistan in 2013 while serving as South Bend’s mayor.
  • His campaign has focused on issues that face millennials like him. He sees climate change as a national security threat and wants to invest billions to make sure that the U.S. creates sustainable renewable energy sources and becomes a “net zero” energy consumer. He also supports universal background checks while pointing out that millennials “grew up with school shootings” and a public option-style healthcare plan-- although he’s said he’s “all for” an eventual move to a single-payer system.
  • As mayor, Buttigieg has pushed for a tech-friendly revitalization of South Bend. South Bend has seen its population decline by nearly a quarter since the 1963 closure of a Studebaker plant, but Buttigieg has invested millions in a “smart streets” initiative meant to make the city more appealing to businesses. Buttigieg’s redevelopment proposals faced backlash from activists in African-American and Latino communities, who accused Buttigieg of gentrification for proposing knocking down homes in low-income neighborhoods. Buttigieg said in April 2019 that he had his frustrations with the plan and that he’s “not sure” he got the plan right.
  • Buttigieg would be the first LGBT-identifying president or Democratic presidential nominee. He is openly gay, having come out in 2015 while serving as mayor, and married his husband last year.