South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg knows he isn’t the traditional presidential candidate, he told a Rock Hill crowd Saturday.
He’s running for the highest office in the land as a mayor, an openly gay man — and a millennial.
“If we don’t step up, who will?” Buttigieg, 37, asked the Rock Hill crowd, more than 200 people gathered inside the gymnasium at Clinton College. “Who has more at stake than those who will be picking up the pieces of the decisions that are being made right now?”
Buttigieg said as a millennial, he’s not afraid to re-examine vocabulary. He’s focusing on freedom, democracy and security — words he said have sometimes been claimed as principles of only the Republican Party, but ones that he’s reclaiming.
Buttigieg is the third Democratic presidential candidate to visit Rock Hill in two days. Beto O’Rourke spoke to Rock Hill residents at Amelie’s cafe Friday, and Cory Booker campaigned at the Freedom Temple Saturday morning
What did he talk about?
Security means many things to Buttigieg, who served in the Navy Reserves and is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he said — but it doesn’t necessarily mean a wall on the southern border.
Climate change is an urgent security issue in his eyes.
“Don’t let anyone distract you from climate being a security issue,” he said. “Not when it’s claiming lives in Nebraska, or contributing to storms on the eastern seaboard.”
He said confronting the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and around the world, as seen in the mass shooting at New Zealand mosques March 15, is also a major security issue.
“I’m here because of immigration,” Buttigieg said. “My father immigrated to the country.”
He said his father came to the U.S. from Malta in the 1970s.
“We need to recognize that immigration is our strength,” he said. “And we need to fix our broken immigration system.”
Buttigieg said fixing the immigration system means making a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, especially for Dreamers, using the common name for the group of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival.
Buttigieg said that as South Bend mayor he joined “Mayors Against Illegal Guns.”
“I believe we can show respect for the Second Amendment and also keep our communities safer, with common sense gun reform,” he said.
Buttigieg said most Americans agree with enforcing universal background checks, which he supports.
“Some of those weapons — we’ve got to draw a line somewhere — and it’s within the Second Amendment that somewhere in between a slingshot and a nuclear warhead, we’re going to draw a line,” he said. “And when we draw that line, lets do it in a way that recognizes that some of these weapons of war have no place in peace time, in American neighborhoods and cities.”
Buttigieg said that his family relied on financial support from Medicare when his mother was sick, and that shaped his health care beliefs.
“And the question I keep asking myself as I think about the difference that it made in my most vulnerable moments, shouldn’t every other American have that freedom?”