Pete Buttigieg has officially announced his candidacy for president of the United States, promising to bring the “courage to reimagine our future” from his job as mayor of South Bend into the White House.
From a partially rebuilt autos factory in the Indiana town he has served as mayor for two terms, the 37-year-old Rhodes Scholar said its resurgence from one of America’s top 10 “dying cities” into an attractive location for technology firms illustrates his qualification to take on Donald Trump in 2020.
“I ran for mayor in 2011 knowing nothing like Studebaker would ever come back, but that we would, our city would, if we had the courage to reimagine our future,” Mr Buttigieg said, referencing the car company that once inhabited the building he stood in.
The millennial mayor has mounted a surprisingly effective campaign in recent months that has taken him from being a relatively unknown figure in national politics, to one a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And, in a pool of candidates known for its historic diversity, the mayor who pronounces his name “Boot-Edge-Edge” provides his own set of intrigues: He would be America’s first openly gay president, the nation’s youngest, and, as a former Navy reservist, the first president to have served in any of the wars launched in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.
Since announcing his exploratory committee, the political progressive has run a campaign that has received a surprising amount of media and voter attention, with more than $7m in funds raised during the first quarter of this year alone.
While he has steered away from putting forward detailed policy proposals like some of his rivals in the Democratic field — he maintains that he wants to run a campaign focusing on the story first — Mr Buttigieg has nevertheless focused on several progressive policies that indicate his values as a potential president.
He has said that he wants to focus politics on millennials and younger Americans, and said that those voters are particularly impacted by the coming election because younger people are going to be at “the business end” of climate change.
The candidate — who has made headlines for speaking Norwegian, and playing piano with singer Ben Folds — has also made waves for his discussion of his sexuality, religion, and how those have come into conflict with that of another famous Hoosier: vice president Mike Pence.
“Your quarrel is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator,” Mr Buttigieg said last week, addressing "the Mike Pences of the world", who is known for pursuing anti-gay legislation while governor of Indiana.
Mr Buttigieg must outpace at least two very well known brands in American politics to become the Democratic nominee, with Bernie Sanders already running and Joe Biden rumoured to be planning a run.
That’s in addition to the more than a dozen other candidates vying for the nomination, a group that includes the likes of politicians like Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and others.
But, Mr Buttigieg’s success has not been isolated to media hits and fundraising: Just this past week, two separate polls indicated that he had surged to third place in New Hampshire and in Iowa, the first two states that will vote on the nominees next year.