South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Monday in New York that he is aware of the lack of diversity at some of his presidential campaign events, including the fundraiser he was headlining, adding that he was “very intent” on fixing it.
The question from a voter gets to a key question about the Buttigieg campaign: Can the South Bend mayor win over African-American voters who make up a key – if not the key – demographic in the Democratic primary?
“I could talk ‘til I’m blue in the face how about how important it is that our campaign, our base of supporters and future administration reflect this country,” Buttigieg said in response to a question about the “crowd … lacking in diversity.”
“The honest answer to that question is I need your help. I need your help reaching out to anybody that could benefit from a more inclusive and more hopeful politics. And that is something that has no color.”
He added: “We are very conscious and very intent on building the most diverse possible base of supporters at every level, from the committee to the people who fill the room that help lift us up. And we need the feedback that comes from that, we need the support that comes from that. And that’s the kind of campaign we want to build.”
Buttigieg added that he hopes the campaign will have a “better answer for that at each event we go to.”
Buttigieg has – so far – struggled to garner the kind of African-American support that will likely be needed to win the nomination. The majority of his audiences in South Carolina in March were largely white – notable considering the state’s Democratic electorate is overwhelmingly black.
And the lack of people of color at his announcement on Sunday in South Bend,Indiana, was noticed even by allies.
“Watching the @PeteButtigieg announcement from South Bend. Crowd seems very large, very impressive but also very white-an obstacle he will have to overcome,” tweeted David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to former President Barack Obama and Buttigieg friend. “And by obstacle I mean deficiency. He will need to build out his coalition in a very diverse party.”
Buttigieg has seen a boom in his popularity over the last month, leading the South Bend mayor to find himself firmly next to Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker in a handful of polls.
But the rise has also led to scrutiny, including his ability to win African-American voters and decisions he made during his time as mayor that more directly impacted communities of color.
Buttigieg, in response to another question about paid family leave at the fundraiser, told a voter that he and his husband Chasten Buttigieg are “hoping to have little ones soon, so we have a personal stake in this one, too.”
Chasten Buttigieg, who has seen his own rise in popularity as the campaign has gained momentum, was on stage with the mayor at the time.
“This is a great example of how we have come to accept the unacceptable in this country,” Buttigieg said. “This is not an exotic thing that you got to run the labor of models to score the potential implications. This is something that people in pretty much every developed country have, except us.”
He added: “So when somebody is standing in the way of that, they are saying the American people should settle for less, and that is wrong. We should have paid parental leave and we need to find a way to have paid leave for taking care of parents or anybody else who needs caregiving as well.”