It’s never happened before…no mayor has ever ascended directly to the White House. That makes Pete Buttigieg’s surprising performance in the Democratic primary a legitimate surprise for many, and those who hold office in the nation’s city halls might be a tad bit envious.
Buttigieg, the mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city, has been in the spotlight of television coverage, raised millions of dollars and been photographed with his husband, Chasten, for the cover of Time magazine.
Meanwhile, New York’s Bill de Blasio, the mayor of the nation’s largest city, is having difficulty persuading anyone, including his own constituents, to take his potential run for president seriously.
“Everybody’s going to laugh at him” if he runs, said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist. “The irony is that the South Bend mayor is being taken seriously and the New York mayor’s not.”
It isn’t just de Blasio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who considered running for president before deciding not to, has been asked more than once whether Buttigieg’s success has made him reconsider his choices.
“Mayor Pete, somebody that is a veteran like you, is a mayor like you, is a Rhodes scholar like you, is a pianist like you,” a reporter asked Garcetti in Los Angeles recently, where he appeared alongside Buttigieg. “Do you think, ‘That could have been me?’”
What Buttigieg’s success brings to light more than anything is that the particulars of the position were never all that important — that the lane that once appeared to exist for mayors was, in fact, incidental to the office.
“He’s not carrying the flag for mayors,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive consultant who advised Cynthia Nixon in her primary campaign against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year. “Mayor is part of his qualification, [but] he’s running as a millennial, he’s running as a veteran, he’s running a historic candidacy as the first LGBTQ candidate. So there’s a lot of things that make Buttigieg special.”
Still, she said, “I think when mayors, when other elected officials look at his actual qualifications, it’s easy to see how they could look in the mirror and say, ‘Why not me?’”