Election 2020
Portrait of Pete Buttigieg
Portrait of Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

Democratic candidate

The 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is making a play for the center left and young voters with a campaign fueled by calls for “generational change.” He presents himself as a member of the “school shooting generation” and uses his age to talk about the effects of climate change. And although he is reimagining the structure of bedrock institutions such as the Supreme Court, Buttigieg is less radical when it comes to issues such as health care, not going as far as endorsing a single-payer system. Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay president of the United States, was a Rhodes scholar and former intelligence officer for the Navy Reserve — a position that sent him to Afghanistan for seven months.

The mayor is one of the few Democratic candidates from a state Donald Trump carried in 2016. Buttigieg has a fraught relationship with South Bend’s black community and has faced questions about not addressing racial inequities that plague the city. He did not run for reelection in 2019; his successor was sworn in Jan. 1.

Buttigieg came in first in the state delegate equivalent count in Iowa, then placed second in New Hampshire and third in Nevada. He’s second in the national delegate count to Sanders.

In depth

Inside Pete Buttigieg’s years-long, and often clumsy, quest to understand the black experience Friends and colleagues describe a man still forming a sensibility about African American issues and culture

Robert Samuels | Dec. 16, 2019 | 17 minutes

His city of South Bend has grown and stabilized But growth has not benefited nonwhite and lower-income residents at the same pace

Amy B Wang | April 22, 2019 | 11 minutes

How Pete Buttigieg went from war protester to ‘packing my bags for Afghanistan’: Months before he launched his first campaign, he joined the Navy Reserve.

Steve Hendrix and Josh Partlow | July 29, 2019 | 16 minutes


Buttigieg, the youngest candidate in the presidential race, calls climate change the “security challenge of our era.” His proposal outlines an economy-wide carbon price and calls for increasing the country’s clean electricity twofold by 2025. The mayor’s strategy also focuses on developing clean farming techniques and more equitable distribution of government disaster relief funding. Buttigieg has reminded voters that he is one of only a handful of White House hopefuls who is likely to be alive in 2050, the year most candidates set as their goal for full decarbonization.

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Economic inequality

Buttigieg says the wealthy should pay more taxes and that he is considering a wealth tax or higher taxes on things like capital gains, dividends and estates. He is calling for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour and for the corporate tax rate to be returned to 35 percent. He also supports 12 weeks of paid family leave for all workers. He says the government shouldn’t provide a jobs guarantees but that investment in combating climate change and rebuilding infrastructure would create new jobs with worker protections.

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In a departure from the more left-leaning candidates in his party, Buttigieg has advocated against free college tuition. He says that to cut costs of higher education, less educated Americans would have to pay more taxes to benefit peers who are already better positioned for economic success. “As a progressive, I have a hard time getting my head around the idea a majority who earn less because they didn’t go to college subsidize a minority who earn more because they did,” he told an audience in April at Northeastern University in Boston. He instead proposes debt-free college through a state-federal partnership focused on making public education affordable. Buttigieg has introduced a K-12 education plan that would increase funding for Title I schools, which have large concentrations of low-income students.

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Foreign policy

With military experience and a full roster of foreign policy advisers, Buttigieg has made the United States’ involvement overseas a central tenet of his campaign. He says he would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, block U.S. taxpayer money from Israel if the country annexes the West Bank and limit presidential authority over military intervention abroad by repealing a 2001 congressional authorization. Buttigieg presented his foreign policy vision in June. “Decisions made in the White House Situation Room do reverberate throughout America’s living rooms,” he said. “And every decision concerning the South China Sea should be made through the prism of what it means for a place like South Bend.”

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Buttigieg thinks the U.S. government should be restructured to create a more efficient and equitable country — a vision that is central to his presidential run. He has reimagined the makeup of the Supreme Court, considering a 15-member body with five justices promoted from lower courts. He said he would create a bipartisan reform commission to recommend improvements to the highest court. Buttigieg also has called for a constitutional amendment that would abolish the electoral college in favor of the popular vote. “It’s simple: the candidate who gets the most votes should win,” his website reads. He has expressed openness to ending the Senate filibuster.

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Health care

Buttigieg’s “Medicare-for-all-who-want-it” diverges from the single-payer health-care model touted by more liberal candidates. His plan would offer a government-sponsored “public option” to everyone, including those with employer-sponsored coverage and undocumented immigrants. The plan also allows private insurance companies to compete with the government model in the hope that a strong public option would pressure the private companies to match low prices and comprehensive coverage. “I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you,” he said during the third Democratic presidential debate. “Not my way or the highway.”

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Buttigieg said that if he is elected, immigrants without papers would be prosecuted under the criminal statute only if they commit fraud in border crossings. All other cases would be handled under civil law. “When I am president, illegally crossing the border will still be illegal,” he said during the second presidential debate. Buttigieg has called to “reinstate enforcement priorities” that focus on deporting the undocumented immigrants who pose the most danger to the country. He also has said he supports “investments that actually improve our border security,” calling not necessarily just for physical barriers but “a more complete set of tools and evolving technology.”

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Who agrees with you?

Answer some of the policy questions that the candidates did and see which candidates your answers align with.

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