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March 1, 2020 at 4:40 pm PST | by Chris Johnson
Buttigieg drops out of presidential race
Pete Buttigieg, gay news, Washington Blade

Pete Buttigieg is set to drop his presidential campaign. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had considerable success and made history as a gay presidential candidate, dropped on Sunday night his bid for the White House.

“Tonight, I am making the difficult to suspend my campaign for the presidency,” Buttigieg said in a speech in his hometown of South Bend. “I will no longer seek to be the Democratic nominee for president, but I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January.”

In a speech bringing historic campaign for the LGBTQ community to an end, Buttigieg invoked the major themes of his campaign, including respect, belonging, discipline and joy.

Those values, Buttigieg said, were what compelled him to discontinue his bid for the presidency just days before Super Tuesday, when a lion’s share of 1,357 delegates will be awarded.

“One of the those values is truth, and today is a moment of truth,” Buttigieg said. “After a year of going everywhere, meeting everyone, defying every expectations, seeking everybody, the truth is that the path has narrowed for our candidacy, if not our cause.”

Throughout his speech, Buttigieg supporters could be heard chanting, “2024! 2024!” (They were apparently unaware the implications of that chant would be the re-election of President Trump in November.)

Buttigieg exits on the heels of the primary in South Carolina, where he performed poorly behind former vice president Joseph Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Buttigieg won 8 percent of the vote, compared to 49 percent for Biden and 20 percent for Sanders.

But Buttigieg enjoyed considerable success in the early voting state of Iowa and New Hampshire. Although his win in Iowa was marred by a fiasco in counting votes for the Iowa caucuses, he walked out with the most delegates, becoming the first openly gay person to state contest in a presidential primary.

But Buttigieg struggled to win support from black voters, whose support will be crucial in obtaining the Democratic nomination as the primary heads in Super Tuesday and states with a greater racial minority electorate.

By dropping out of the race before Super Tuesday, Buttigieg spares himself the rejection from black voters at the polls, which have a cemented an image of him for all his future political endeavors, and limits the field of moderate candidates in the Democratic primary sharing Buttigieg’s ideology to avoid splitting up that vote.

Chasten Buttigieg, introducing his husband on stage, recalled the time he affirmed his husband’s decision to run for president because of what it would mean for gay youth.

“After falling in love with Pete, he got me to believe in myself,” Chasten Buttigieg said. “And I told Pete to run because I knew there were other kids sitting out there in this country who wanted to believe in themselves, too.”

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, had endorsed Buttigieg and affirmed in a statement the importance of the candidate’s campaign to LGBTQ people.

“Pete and Chasten have transformed our politics forever,” Zbur said. “They’ve given hope to millions of LGBTQ+ youth who saw themselves in this campaign. They’ve put tears of pride in the eyes of LGBTQ+ seniors, who have, over the course of their adult lives, witnessed an unimaginable arc of history. For them, this campaign meant something — and it will mean something for generations to come.”

Despite his struggles, Buttigieg maintained an optimistic tone throughout his speech, maintaining his vision for improving America.

“I firmly believe that in these years in our time, we can and will make American life and politics more like what it could be, not just more wise and more prosperous, but more equitable and more just and more decent,” Buttigieg said.

Although Buttigieg didn’t endorse a candidate in his speech, he made a veiled warning against Sanders, whose opponents say he can’t win and would bring failure to candidates across the board.

“We need an approach strong enough not only to win the White House, but to hold the House, win the Senate and send Mitch McConnell into retirement,” Buttigieg said.

While his candidacy is one for the history books, Buttigieg said for the time being his focus remains the same: Removing Trump from the White House.

“I know that as this campaign ends, there comes disappointment,” Buttigieg said. “But I hope everyone who has been part of this anyway knows that the campaign that you have built and the community that you have created is only the beginning of the change that we are going to make together.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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