GOFFSTOWN — While he lacks the name recognition or fundraising skills of many of his Democratic presidential rivals, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., spent his Friday visit to the Granite State using a bold set of reforms to set himself apart from the growing pack of 2020 contenders.
Buttigieg announced his exploratory committee on Jan. 23, and while he’s yet to formally declare his bid for the presidency the 37-year-old mayor would be both the youngest and the first openly gay Commander in Chief in the nation’s history.
Buttigieg, a second term mayor, spent his Friday morning address at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics making clear that he intended to build his profile on a slate of progressive views that he says come from his background as a 30-something mayor from the rustbelt.
“We have a system that no longer works, economically or politically, for so many people in so many different parts of the country, including the industrial Midwest,” said Buttigieg. “And that’s why a millennial Midwestern mayor might have something different to offer.”
Buttigieg, who made headlines last month for appearing to entertain the idea of packing the Supreme Court, doubled down on his call for adding additional members to the high court by publicly endorsing a plan that would grow the nine-member body by six additional justices.
Signaling his preference for a plan he says originates from the Yale Law Review, Buttigieg described his ideal Supreme Court as a 15-member body composed of five justices appointed by a Republican President, five justices appointed by a Democratic President and the remaining five appointed from the appellate courts by the unanimous approval of the other 10 justices.
“It takes politics out of it a little bit,” said Buttigieg of the proposal. “We can’t go on like this where every time there’s a vacancy, there are these games being played and then an apocalyptic ideological battle over who the appointee is going to be.”
Describing the Electoral College as part of a system that has “overruled the American people” twice in his lifetime, Buttigieg also repeated his call for the election of the President by popular vote.
“It doesn’t matter most years what we think because our state is too conservative to matter in the Electoral College,” said Buttigieg of his native Indiana. “And if you live in California, it doesn’t really matter what you think because your state’s too liberal to matter in the Electoral College. I just believe that we’d be better served if we had a system where the person who wins the most votes actually wins the election.”
These controversial proposals stand somewhat in contrast to Buttigieg’s more pragmatic South Bend mayoral record, a tenure marked by a heavy emphasis on infrastructure projects like his 2017 “Smart Streets” initiative to install pedestrian and bike friendly amenities and convert many one-way streets to two-way usage.
Such projects have earned Buttigieg high marks from his constituents, handily winning reelection in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote.
“Mayors, for example, will never shut down a government over ideological disagreement. It’s unthinkable — we deliver water! You need water to live. Problems have to get solved in a different way,” said Buttigieg of what sets mayors apart from other political figures.
As if his age, sexual orientation and municipal government resume didn’t already distinguish Buttigieg from his 2020 Democratic rivals, he also holds the title as the only candidate to have served a tour of military duty in Afghanistan, where he spent seven months as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer.
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who was in attendance at Friday’s Politics and Eggs breakfast, called Buttigieg an “impressive candidate”, and echoed his assessment of the strengths a mayor could bring to the Oval Office.
“As a mayor, we have hands-on opportunity to really affect change, and I think he articulated that very well,” said Craig.
“We supply our residents with water, we insure quality education, we grapple with some of the serious issues facing our country with opioid overdoses. I think the experience that a mayor can bring to the level of President is fantastic.”