Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg won his first endorsement from a member of Congress on Wednesday, as Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) announced that he was backing the young Indiana politician known as “Mayor Pete.”
“Everybody I talk to — even my Republican brother-in-law I had breakfast with — is excited about him,” Beyer said in an interview.
Beyer initially did not know what to make of the millennial mayor of South Bend, Ind., who formally announced his White House bid this month.
“I started off as a huge skeptic,” he said. But he looked into the 37-year-old’s background and liked what he saw: He’s a former Naval intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, a Rhodes scholar who speaks seven languages, a Midwesterner who does not shy away from religion and a mayor with executive experience that many contenders lack.
What really won Beyer over was a series of interviews he heard Buttigieg give.
“The thing that really most impressed me was listening to him,” he said. “I think he’s the most articulate of all the candidates we have. He speaks plainly but very thoughtfully. Politics is about communicating and being able to tell a story well. And I think he does it better than anyone I’ve seen since Barack Obama.”
Beyer endorsed Obama in early 2007 and volunteered on his campaign, knocking on doors for weeks in Iowa ahead of the state caucuses. Beyer, who is serving his third term in Congress, representing a deep-blue Northern Virginia district, plans to do similar work for Buttigieg.
Beyer served two terms as Virginia’s lieutenant governor in the 1990s, was a major fundraiser for Obama and served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein from 2009 to 2013.
“I endorsed Barack Obama early, having been moved by both his intelligence and his political capability,” Beyer said in a prepared statement. “I am similarly inspired by Mayor Pete. With him, I feel the promise of a new generation, and I see a way out of the darkness.
“In making this choice, I think of the qualities missing from the current occupant of the Oval Office. They are qualities that Pete Buttigieg exudes: decency, a grounding in history, optimism, a sophisticated grasp of the world and of the dangers of bigotry, and a generosity of spirit. The Democratic field is full of people with these traits, but Pete possesses them to an uncommon degree, and, just as importantly, has a gift for communicating them.”
Beyer said he does not think most voters will care that Buttigieg is gay, saying that America “has largely worked through” anti-gay sentiment. That the mayor is “in a stable marriage with somebody he obviously loves tells us good things about him,” he said.
As for his age, Beyer noted that Buttigieg would be 39 by the time he’d take office — “not much younger than Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy, and they did quite well.”