Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg ( BOOT-ih-jij; born January 19, 1982) is an American politician and former U.S.
Buttigieg was elected mayor of South Bend in the November 2011 election with 74% of the vote. 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 —and the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with at least 100,000 residents.
In 2000, Buttigieg was valedictorian of his senior class at St. Joseph High School in South Bend. That year, he won first prize in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum's Profiles in Courage essay contest. He traveled to Boston to accept the award and met Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy's family. The subject of his winning essay was the integrity and political courage of then U.S. Representative Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of only two independent politicians in Congress.
Upon graduating magna cum laude 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 after studying at Pembroke College, Oxford. At Oxford, he served as an editor of the Oxford International Review.
Before graduating from college, Buttigieg worked as an investigative intern at WMAQ-TV, Chicago's NBC news affiliate. He also interned for Democrat Jill Long Thompson during her unsuccessful 2002 congressional bid and later became the research director for her 2008 gubernatorial campaign in Indiana. In 2006, he lent assistance to Joe Donnelly's successful congressional campaign. Buttigieg also co-founded the Democratic Renaissance Project, an organization of young people committed to bringing new ideas to bear in public debates.
After earning his Oxford degree, in 2007 Buttigieg became a consultant at the Chicago office of McKinsey & Company, where he worked on energy, retail, economic development, and logistics for three years. He quit his job at McKinsey in 2010 in order to focus full-time on his campaign for Indiana State Treasurer.
In 2007, while volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Buttigieg joined the military; he said he was prompted to do so after witnessing the disparities between communities that had large amounts of youth missing due to military service and those that had barely any serving.
Buttigieg became an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2009 and began training to become a naval intelligence officer. In 2014, he took a seven-month leave during his mayoral term to deploy to Afghanistan. While there, 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 more than 100 trips into Kabul. Buttigieg has jokingly referred to this role as "military Uber," because he had to watch out for ambushes and explosive devices along the roads and ensure the vehicle was guarded. In order to better communicate with the local Afghans, he learned some Dari (a variety of the Persian language). Buttigieg was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2017.
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.
In 2010, Buttigieg praised the passage of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
While running for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010, Buttigieg once described his record as fiscally conservative.
Buttigieg has written that his "first serious mistake as mayor" came shortly after taking office in 2012, when he decided to ask for Boykins's resignation; the city's first ever African-American police chief promptly accepted the request but later sued the city for racial discrimination, arguing that the taping policy had existed under previous police chiefs, who were white. Buttigieg settled the suits brought by Boykins and the four officers out of court for over $800,000. In 2015, a federal judge ruled that Boykins's recordings violated the Federal Wiretap Act. Buttigieg came under pressure from political opponents to release the tapes, but said that doing so would be a violation of the Wiretap Act. He called for the eradication of racial bias in the police force. An Indiana court is hearing a case for the release of the tapes.
In 2012, after a federal investigation ruled that South Bend police had illegally recorded telephone calls of several officers, Buttigieg demoted police chief Darryl Boykins. Buttigieg also dismissed the department's communications director, the one who had actually "discovered the recordings but continued to record the line at Boykins' command." The police communications director alleged that the recordings captured four senior police officers making racist remarks and discussing illegal acts.
In a June 2015 piece in the South Bend Tribune, Buttigieg came out as gay. He also is the first openly gay presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, and the second overall, after Fred Karger, a Republican, who ran in 2012.
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, 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. Buttigieg plays guitar and piano, and in 2013 performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra as a guest piano soloist with Ben Folds. Buttigieg was a 2014 Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow. He was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Fenn Award in 2015.
Buttigieg was named mayor of the year in 2013 by GovFresh.com, tying with third-term New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg. In 2014, The Washington Post called Buttigieg "the most interesting mayor you've never heard of" based on his youth, education, and military background. 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."
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 "Smart Streets" was aimed at improving economic development and urban vibrancy as well as road safety. 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; and the introduction of roundabouts. Elements of the project were finished in 2016, and it was officially completed in 2017. The project was credited with spurring private development in the city.
Buttigieg has been involved with the Truman National Security Project since 2005 and serves as a Fellow with expertise in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2014, he was named to the organization's Board of Advisors.
In 2014, Buttigieg announced that he would seek a second term. He won the Democratic primary with 78% of the vote, defeating Henry Davis Jr., the city councilman from the Second District. In November 2015, he was elected to his second term as mayor with over 80% of the vote, defeating Republican Kelly Jones.
Buttigieg served for seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, returning to the United States on September 23, 2014. While deployed, he was assigned to the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, a counterterrorism unit that targeted Taliban insurgency financing. 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.
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. Before his reelection campaign, he came out as gay to express his solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
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. The "River Lights" installation was unveiled in May 2015, as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebrations. Under Buttigieg, South Bend launched a $50-million investment in the city's parks, many of which had been neglected during the preceding decades.
In December 2017, Buttigieg announced his engagement to Chasten Glezman, a junior high school teacher; they had been dating since August 2015 after meeting on the dating app Hinge. They were married on June 16, 2018, in a private ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James. As of April 2019 Chasten uses his husband's surname, Buttigieg.
One of Buttigieg's signature programs has been the "Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative"; known locally as "1,000 Properties in 1,000 Days," it is a project to repair or demolish blighted properties across South Bend. The program reached its goal two months before its scheduled end date in November 2015. By the thousandth day of the program, nearly 40% of the targeted houses were repaired, and 679 were demolished or under contract for demolition. In a new phase of the program, South Bend partnered with the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center to provide free legal assistance to qualifying applicants wishing to acquire vacant lots and with local nonprofits to repair or construct homes and provide low-income home ownership assistance using South Bend HUD funds. Buttigieg increased city funding levels for home construction and improvement in the 2018 South Bend budget via several programs, including the UEA Pilot Home Repair Program, a grant intended to improve low-income residents' quality of life.
In 2019, Buttigieg said he was "troubled" by President Obama's decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Iraq War whistleblower, days before leaving office in 2017. Buttigieg also gave a mixed evaluation of Edward Snowden's disclosure of classified information, saying, "we've learned things about abuses and that one way or another that needed to come out" but that "the way for that to come out is through Congressional oversight, not through a breach of classified information."
In January 2017, Buttigieg announced his candidacy for chair of the Democratic National Committee in its 2017 chairmanship election. 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, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, Indiana senator Joe Donnelly, and North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp. Buttigieg "campaigned on the idea that the aging Democratic Party needed to empower its millennial members."
Buttigieg has said that, if elected, he will restore the United States' commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and double its pledge to the Green Climate Fund. In June 2017, he was one of 407 U.S. mayors who signed a pact to adhere to the agreement after President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from it. Buttigieg also supports the Green New Deal proposed by House Democrats.
Buttigieg is pro-choice and supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion services in all but the most extreme circumstances. In 2018, as mayor, Buttigieg vetoed a South Bend Common Council rezoning decision that would have allowed a pro-life Women's Care Center to open next door to the abortion clinic, Whole Women's Health Alliance. The Women's Care Center eventually found an alternative location in South Bend. Even though the South Bend Common Council supported the rezoning exception, Buttigieg said, “I don’t think it would be responsible to situate two groups literally right next to each other ... that have diametrically opposed views on the most divisive social issue of our time.” He also expressed concern that such close proximity would conduce to the harassment of each side by the other.
In December 2018, Buttigieg announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor of South Bend in order to focus on a possible run for President in the 2020 election.
In January 2019, following Juan Guaidó's self-declaration as interim president of Venezuela, Buttigieg told HuffPost that as a supporter of free and fair elections, he is amenable to potential sanctions but not a military intervention. On June 11, 2019, Buttigieg said: "We will remain open to working with a regime like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the benefit of the American people. But we can no longer sell out our deepest values for the sake of fossil fuel access and lucrative business deals."
On January 23, 2019, Buttigieg announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States in the upcoming 2020 election. Buttigieg is seeking the Democratic nomination. If elected, he would be the youngest and the first openly gay American president. Buttigieg officially launched his campaign on April 14, 2019, in South Bend.
In February 2019, Buttigieg endorsed James Mueller in the 2019 South Bend mayoral election. Mueller was a high-school classmate of Buttigieg's and served as his mayoral chief of staff, and later as executive director of the South Bend Department of Community Investment. Mueller's campaign promised to continue the progress that had been made under Buttigieg's mayoralty. Buttigieg appeared in campaign ads for Mueller and donated to Mueller's campaign. Mueller won the May 7 Democratic primary with 37% of the vote in a crowded field. He will face Republican Sean M. Haas in the November general election.
In May 2019, Buttigieg warned that President Donald Trump and his administration were using white identity politics, which he identified as the most divisive form of identity politics. In July 2019, he shared his Douglass Plan, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to address systemic racism in America. Announcing it at a Chicago meeting of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH civil rights organization, Buttigieg compared the plan's scope to that of the U.S.'s Marshall Plan, which invested funds in war-torn Europe after World War II, and said it would address "opportunity for minority businesses, strengthening voting rights, and reforming the criminal justice system." The initiative allocates $10 billion to African-American entrepreneurship over five years, grants $25 billion to historically black colleges, legalizes marijuana, expunges records of drug convictions, halves the federal prison population, and passes a federal New Voting Rights Act designed to increase voting access.
In May 2019, after the Alabama Legislature outlawed virtually all abortion services in the state by passing the Human Life Protection Act, Buttigieg said that it was "ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women."
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 deceased man. The local police union accused Buttigieg of making decisions for political gain.
In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named him one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people."
He also supports expanding opportunities for national service and has said that he is open to making a yearlong term of national service voluntary for those turning 18 years old. "One thing we could do ... would be to make it, if not legally obligatory, then certainly a social norm that anybody after they're 18 years old spends a year in national service", he said. In July 2019 Buttigieg announced a plan to increase participation in national service organizations like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, as well as creating new ones dedicated to "fighting climate change, treating mental health and addiction, and providing caregiving for older people." The initiative prioritizes volunteering in predominantly minority communities and rural areas by tripling programs to 250,000 people at first, then expanding to one million by 2026.
In July 2019, Buttigieg released a plan to strengthen union bargaining power, to raise the minimum wage to $15, and to offer national paid family leave.
In August 2019, Buttigieg released a $300 billion plan to expand mental health care services and fight addiction.
On August 23, 2019, Buttigieg released a plan to decriminalize all drug possession; decriminalization would make the possession of all drugs legal, with the sale of them remaining illegal. The plan states that this, in conjunction with diversionary programs to treat instead of incarcerate the addicted, should "decrease the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75% in the first term."