Jack Colwell: What's next for Mayor Buttigieg's political future?
Thursday, March 09, 2017 9:53 AM
SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised a half million dollars in six weeks for his campaign for chair of the Democratic Party. He received widespread favorable news coverage. Then he dropped out before the first ballot. Here are some questions about that, with what Buttigieg and others say about his bid to lead the party.
Q. Why did he drop out?
A. “If either of the others (frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison) was going to come in shy of 200 (votes) on the first ballot, then even with a very modest total, there would be a path for us,” said Buttigieg. “When we saw that wasn’t going to happen, I certainly didn’t want to prolong it, create multiple rounds for my own benefit.”
Q. Was he offered a deal?
A. “Early on, people would kind of sniff around about what I really wanted, some kind of deal that would convince me to step out,” Buttigieg said. “But I think over time we made clear that I was simply in this because I thought it was the right thing for the party. So, there was no deal at the end. I didn’t do this because I needed a job at the DNC. I have a perfectly good and compelling day job right here in South Bend.”
Q. What did national pundits say?
A. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, in picking winners and losers, cited two winners: Perez, who was elected chair, and Buttigieg, described by Cillizza as the “most dynamic candidate in the race.”
Q. But how can you win by dropping out?
A. Dropping out was smart, Cillizza theorized, because Buttigieg “wasn’t likely to come close to either Perez or Ellison, and that might have slowed the momentum and buzz he clearly built in the race.”
Q. Momentum for what?
A. There is speculation that the mayor could run for governor or the U.S. Senate and some day for even higher office.
Q. So, what will he run for?
A. Buttigieg says that he has no detailed game plan but responds to situations as they develop. For example, neither he nor anyone else thought just months ago that he would run for national Democratic chair. Governor isn’t up until 2020. A Senate seat without a Democrat already there isn’t up until 2022. He won’t run for the House. So, who knows?
Q. Could he use what’s left of that half million in running for a third term as mayor?
A. “I don’t know,” Buttigieg says. He isn’t sure how much is left and whether it could be used in a local race. “But we’ve raised money into the mayoral reelect campaign,” he quickly adds. “And that’s got a pretty healthy amount in the tank. We’re certainly prepared for 2019.”
Q. Would he really consider a third term?
A. “Some said I wouldn’t finish my first term,” Buttigieg said. “They don’t realize how compelling this job is for me. It’s my hometown. It’s a really extraordinary moment in the life of our city. I mean, this decade is going to go down in the history of South Bend and be really special.”
Q. Were all of his South Bend constituents pulling for him to be elected chair?
A. No. Most were hoping for his success. But many weren’t because they want him to stay as mayor. Q. Which wing of the party was Buttigieg with?
A. He sought a stance between the Obama/Clinton side and Bernie Sanders supporters, hoping for a path up through the middle. That path just wasn’t there in a Democratic Party still divided over what happened in 2016.
Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.