Mayor Steve Picks Mayor Pete for President

Adler endorses, introduces Buttigieg at 2020 campaign kickoff

Calling the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., “my friend, my colleague as a mayor, and my mentor,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler did the honors of introducing Pete Buttigieg at his official 2020 Democratic presidential campaign kickoff Sunday.

Chasten Buttigieg watches his husband Pete’s presidential announcement from backstage in South Bend. (Photo by Austin Mayor Steve Adler)

The two have a partnership going back to Adler’s election in 2014, when he selected Buttigieg to mentor him as a rookie mayor, and that has flourished into a friendship between both them and their spouses. (Adler and his wife, Diane Land, attended Buttigieg’s wedding to his husband, Chasten.) As he told the Chronicle after the event, “I have had a vantage point to see Pete that most people don’t have, and it was important to share with people what I’ve seen.”

That is, in Adler’s estimation, that Buttigieg “really is that special,” as he told the capacity crowd packed inside a former Studebaker factory that’s now a technology park – a physical symbol of the transition the boy-wonder mayor has tried to achieve in his hometown and, by extension, for the entire postindustrial Midwest, whose discontents helped usher in the present MAGAgeddon. “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president who was smart? Like really, really smart?” Adler asked the crowd. “Who speaks multiple languages, including a beautiful command of English?” And later: “Someone who listens, and actually answers questions, and in those answers teaches us something; someone who we’d want our children to emulate, someone who rallies our better souls.”

Buttigieg’s seemingly far-fetched campaign has gained surprising and substantial traction, with a $7 million first-quarter fundraising haul (more than all 2020 Dems but Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Beto O’Rourke) and recent polls showing him in third place in Iowa and New Hampshire, behind Sanders and the still-not-actually-running Joe Biden – all signs that Buttigieg is (in the words of one of the other speakers) “the Maltese-American gay Episcopalian left-handed war veteran Millennial that America didn’t know it needed.” The announcement event harnessed all those specific energies and signifiers into an upbeat affair that left attendees like Adler and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan both inspired and aware of the history being made.

“It was amazing,” Flannigan told the Chronicle as he described Buttigieg, who earned the council member’s endorsement a while back, as “the type of person you want to see in the White House. And of all the amazing things said about him, the moments when speakers were mentioning his husband, and when Chasten joined him on stage, it was so powerful and emotional for me. It showed the nation that you can and should be authentic, and seeing an openly gay candidate in a loving marriage on the national stage … it really touches my heart.”

For Adler’s part, this is not the first time in recent weeks that the mayor has ascended a chilly stage to exhort a jazzed crowd for a 2020 hopeful. “I welcomed Beto, and would be happy to welcome any of the candidates to Austin,” Adler told us, while also making clear that his endorsement is no longer up for grabs. “I like Julián (Castro) and Beto, they’re both really good people,” he said of his fellow Texans, one also a mayor, who were reported to have been seeking Adler’s nod. “But I’ve offered to help Pete in any way I can. I do have a day job, which is my highest priority; I want to get the land development code done and get transit on the [November 2020] ballot. But I want to do everything I can for Pete.”

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election, March 2020 Primary, Steve Adler, Pete Buttigieg, Jimmy Flannigan, South Bend

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