There’s a crowded field of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“People are a little too polite to ask the question of why a 37-year-old mayor thinks he has any business being in a discussion about the highest office in the land?” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
That’s precisely the question facing Pete Buttigieg, the youngest candidate in the presidential race. He’s the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana now turning heads as he audaciously eyes the White House.
“I know you don’t expect to hear this from the youngest person in the conversation, but my simplest answer is experience,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “I know there’s a more conventional path that involves marinating in Washington for 10 or 20 or 40 years, but I actually think we want Washington to begin looking more like our best run cities and towns, not the other way around.”
He’s touting his youth as a virtue and his biography filled with a list of firsts.
“The fact that I’m a veteran, that I’m young, that I’m in a same sex marriage, those are important parts of who I am,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “But that profile just gets you a look. The real question is once people take that look, what do they see? And what do they hear?”
Democrats are giving him a look but his challenge is to be seen as a serious candidate on a crowded stage.
He’s at the forefront of a new generation of leaders who have little appetite to wait their turn.
Even Democrats not constitutionally old enough to seek the presidency, like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, also influencing the party.
On the campaign trail, Buttigieg is not the only millennial in the race.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is also 37 and an Iraq veteran who is building her candidacy around foreign policy.
“That is the change that I seek to bring to this country of bringing these uniquely American ideals of service before self,” said Representative Gabbard. “That come from my heart as a soldier.”
She’s still explaining a 2017 meeting with Syria’s President, Bashar Al-Assad and has apologized for what she now calls “wrong” and “hurtful” statements when she worked for an anti-gay group.
Two young congressmen also exploring a White House bid: 38-year-old Eric Swalwell of California and 40-year-old Seth Moulton of Massachusetts highlighting a divide, with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders nearly four decades older.
It’s become a ready-made punchline — at least for the younger candidates.
“I understand the audacity of running for president at my age (laughter) especially because sometimes downstairs I’ll still get carded when I order a beer,” said Mayor Buttigieg.
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