Underdog 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is trying to stay away from anti-Trump messaging in his campaign, but he was firm on his thoughts regarding a fellow Hoosier, Vice President Mike Pence.
“Look, my personal interactions with him have always been very civil and very decent,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor told CNN in an interview that aired Monday. “But it’s also simply true that politically, he is a fanatic, and he damaged our city and our state through choices that his social extremism led him to make.”
Buttigieg didn’t go into detail about what those decisions are, but the mayor has publicly criticized the vice president in the past.
The Mike Pence I knew here in Indiana was sincere and straightforward, even in disagreement. Stunts were beneath him. So much has changed.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) October 9, 2017
Notably, Buttigieg has gone after Pence for supporting the dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) May 5, 2017
But Pence is also known as being a notoriously anti-LGBT rights lawmaker who, throughout his career, has supported policies such as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and a ban on transgender military members.
If elected, Buttigieg would be the first-ever openly gay president of the United States. He doesn’t want to make that identity the focus of his campaign, but he recognizes its importance.
“Being gay is part of who I am, and I am aware of what it represents to be that kind of first — first elected official to try to do this who’s out,” Buttigieg told CNN.
“Ultimately, I want to be evaluated based on the ideas that I bring to the table,” he continued, saying that his competency as a leader isn’t dependent on if he comes home to a husband or a wife.
“It’s not lost on me that in no point in the last probably hundred years would somebody like me be taken even a little bit seriously,” Buttigieg added. “Something is different right now, and I’m not going to miss this moment.”
Watch the full interview below:
"I'm a gay man from Indiana, I know how to deal with a bully"
CNN's Kate Bouldan travels to her home-state to interview 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg, where she asks him everything, from Donald Trump to his husband. https://t.co/G2v5jJmtJH pic.twitter.com/6eKagDhar9
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) February 11, 2019
As far as taking on President Donald Trump, Buttigieg said that his campaign will largely ignore him, saying that “the problems that we are facing right now are going to grow with or without him.”
Trump hasn’t gone after Buttigieg as he has some other 2020 Democratic candidates, but Buttigieg says he’s ready for when he does.
“I’m a gay man from Indiana,” he told CNN. “I know how to deal with a bully.”