Buttigieg Campaign Aims To Build Diverse Coalition Of Supporters

Originally published on February 12, 2020 8:36 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's one of many questions after the New Hampshire presidential primary. How does the contest change as it moves to states that are more diverse? Iowa and New Hampshire are much more overwhelmingly white than states to come. Joe Biden is betting he's going to do better elsewhere. Pete Buttigieg is among those at risk of doing worse. Representative Anthony Brown of Maryland is in our studios. He endorsed Buttigieg for president in January, the first black member of Congress to do so.

Congressman, thanks for coming by.

ANTHONY BROWN: Great to be on, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why is it said that Buttigieg has a problem with black voters?

BROWN: Well, look; what Pete has been able to do in Iowa and New Hampshire is build a generational and geographically diverse coalition. And now as we go to New Hampshire and Nevada - much more racially and ethnically diverse - we'll bring that same message and organizational, you know, prowess, if you will, and we'll build a coalition that is diverse both racially and ethnically.

INSKEEP: Although time is short, and surveys do show less support for your candidate among African Americans than other groups.

BROWN: Yeah, and if you're looking at surveys, I think it's also important to note that, you know, if you looked a year ago when no one knew Pete Buttigieg, he was polling zero in the African American community. Today, he's much higher than zero, you know, and sure, still in single digits, but, you know, on campaigns, it's about movement and momentum, and we're demonstrating both.

INSKEEP: Well, people can certainly move on to a second choice. But let's put flatly out on the table something that political analysts look at and presume is a problem for Pete Buttigieg. He's openly gay. It's presumed that a gay man would have some resistance from black evangelicals. Is that something real?

BROWN: No, I - look; I think if you look at the African American community and the white community, there - no one of those communities is (ph) any more sort of homophobic than the other. People have their biases based on whether it's, you know, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, I mean, quite frankly, geography and gender as well. So as people get to know Pete - and we've demonstrated this in Iowa and New Hampshire. We - Pete has demonstrated this in South Bend. As people get to know him, they know what he stands for, how he's going to improve their quality of life and that of their families. That's where we earn the support of voters.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that concern just isn't real; it's not really there, or no more than it would be in the white community (ph)?

BROWN: That's right. I'd say it's no more in the African American community than it is anywhere else. And we live in a country now where somewhat - you know, tolerance - look at the - my kids. I mean, they're 25 and 19 years old, and they are so more accepting of the diversity that we are as a nation. And I think that's why Pete has been - you know, we have been successful in Iowa and New Hampshire, and I think we'll see the same in South Carolina and Nevada.

INSKEEP: Glad you mentioned South Bend, Ind., the city where Buttigieg was mayor for a number of years. And it's a diverse city. He's a white mayor. And of course, he was in the middle of conflicts between police and the black community. Did you yourself look at his record and convince yourself that his record stands up to scrutiny?

BROWN: Absolutely. Having served as Maryland's lieutenant governor with a governor who had been a mayor of a city, I know the difficult and important work of a mayor. And so when I looked at Pete's record, I said, did they make progress? Not, was it an easy path to progress, but even in the face of challenges and difficulties, did they? And you look at, for example, the number of complaints against law enforcement for excessive use of force, that went down dramatically during Pete's tenure as mayor. A city that, 10 years ago, Newsweek - or I think it was maybe U.S. News & World Report - the media wrote off as dead or dying today is not only surviving; it's thriving. Black unemployment is down 70%. Black poverty is down 40%. So they've made a lot of progress.

INSKEEP: Are you willing to say that Pete Buttigieg can win South Carolina the way that he was at or near the top in Iowa and New Hampshire - of course, South Carolina being a state where there's a huge black vote in the Democratic primary?

BROWN: Sure. It depends on how you define win. What I think his...

INSKEEP: How about win?

BROWN: I think - yeah, I think...

INSKEEP: Let's define it as winning.

BROWN: Yeah, right. Nowadays, everyone gets a trophy. But no, in all seriousness, I think we're going to do well in South Carolina. I think we're certainly going to do better than expectations. And we've got an organization there. We've been in South Carolina for quite a while - organizers on the ground in the churches, a digital presence, a paid media buy and a campaign that looks like the community we're campaigning in.

INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks so much.

BROWN: Steve, thank you.

INSKEEP: Anthony Brown of Maryland is co-chair of the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.