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Will Pete Buttigieg resonate with Californians? The ‘millennial mayor’ insists he’s qualified

‘I believe in the freedom to’: Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg outlines his values

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., visited a crowd of hundreds Saturday at Clinton College in Rock Hill. Buttigieg said he is focusing on freedom, democracy and security.
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Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., visited a crowd of hundreds Saturday at Clinton College in Rock Hill. Buttigieg said he is focusing on freedom, democracy and security.

You’re listening to a Candidate Conversation from the California Nation podcast. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to learn what’s happening in the world’s fifth-largest economy and how it’s shaping the national dialogue.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is a young mayor making his way onto the national stage. The self-described “millennial midwestern mayor” is 37, openly gay and a military veteran. He insists the nation’s top priority must be restoring the country’s democratic foundations.

Here are five things you need to know about Pete Buttigieg as he campaigns in the Golden State:

1. He wants to expand the Supreme Court

It might not be the top priority for Californians, but it’s certainly something on Pete Buttigieg’s mind. As president, he said he’d work to revamp the U.S. Supreme Court to make it less political. His solution is increasing the number of justices from nine to 15. Ten of the 15 justices would be appointed under the existing structure, receiving a nomination from the president and confirmation from the Senate. Under his plan, the remaining five judges would need unanimous approval from the 10 Supreme Court justices.

2. Buttigieg sees a unique opportunity in California

Many Democratic presidential candidates have largely ignored the middle of California, instead choosing to camp out in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Buttigieg is guilty of this, saying he has visited these areas because they are where his strongest base of supporters are. But given he comes from a conservative state, he thinks he can resonate well with voters in the Central Valley.

“In addition to the cities where we currently have the strongest base, I’m looking forward to getting to different communities,” he said. “Frankly, it’s the more inland and redder parts of the state that I might have an easier time relating to coming out of Indiana.”

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With California’s primary bumping up from June to March, the state will have an outsized role early in the election. Buttigieg acknowledged the change, saying it’s important to campaign in California because early voting will begin as the Iowa caucuses get underway.

3. Buttigieg insists he’s qualified

On the surface, a 37-year-old mayor from South Bend, Indiana, would be a longshot to win the Democratic presidential nomination, especially in an increasingly crowded field. But early into his candidacy, he received the 65,000 individual donations necessary to qualify for a spot on the Democratic debate stage in June.

He said in a March conversation with The Sacramento Bee that he’s resonating with voters because they want the federal congress to follow cities’ lead.

“Historically, it was viewed that federal office is higher than local office,” Buttigieg said. “Today, if you take a look at Washington, a lot of folks would argue that we would be well served if Washington started looking more like our best run cities and towns rather than the other way around.”

He added that President Donald Trump “represents a low bar” and said he has more executive experience than the president and Vice President Mike President. He noted he’d be the first president with military experience since George H.W. Bush.

“To my own surprise, we’re living in a moment — perhaps the only moment in American history — when somebody like me would even be taken seriously,” Buttigieg said during the interview. “There’s a reason for that. We need something completely different.”

4. He says he’s not holding out for another elected office

Buttigieg is adamant that he actually wants to be president. While he acknowledges he’s serving his eighth and final year as mayor, he said he doesn’t have his eye on another office.

“I don’t believe in running for an office so that you could run for some other office,” he said. “If that were the plan, I’d be doing something easier than what I’m doing.”

5. His husband’s Twitter game is on point

While speaking to reporters before a March 28 event in San Francisco, Buttigieg was asked if his husband, Chasten, will have a role on the campaign trail. He immediately pointed behind the cameras, saying, “Yeah, I think he’s standing over there.”

Buttigieg added that Chasten is passionate about education and family. “His story is a part of my story,” Buttigieg said. “Some of the time, he’s holding down the fort back in South Bend. But he’ll be on the road with us quite a bit, both because I love to be around him and because he’s a real asset in introducing ourselves around the country.”

Chasten also has quite Twitter personality. From his response to Chrissy Teigen’s follow to adorable dog picture to aimlessly staring outside the window while waiting for UberEats, he’s gained some notoriety.

He even received praise from Douglas Emhoff — the husband of California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Chasten Buttigieg is taking his newfound online popularity in stride, though he acknowledges, “This new exposure can be very weird,” adding, “I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to teenagers taking pictures of me and then running away giggling when I look up and see them pointing their phones at me.” But with great notoriety comes great responsibility. This is why he has vowed to no longer smell deodorants at Target. “They’re always watching.”

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