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Notre Dame students help Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s DNC chair campaign

| Friday, February 17, 2017

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg announced he was joining the race for Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Jan. 5. On Feb. 25, 447 members of the DNC will vote in Atlanta for the new chair.

Until then, a group of 15 to 20 students from Notre Dame are working with members of the South Bend community on Buttigieg’s campaign.

“I think you can tell that he’s genuine, and you know that he has your best interests at heart,” fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts said. “ … He did that with South Bend and the business community, he did it with college students and he did it with the communities that were disadvantaged. Generating action is what makes him such a compelling person and why I think he’d be great in the DNC chair.”

Some of the students traveled to the Detroit Forum on Feb. 3 and 4 to support Buttigieg and talk to DNC members about why they were rallying for him. Senior Andrew Galo said they focused on “visibility” and relaying Buttigieg’s story and message.

“[The forums are] exciting; they’re fast-paced; they’re high-energy,” he said. “Basically, [they are] day-long events with panel debates with all the candidates for the various offices. … The whole day consists of them debating.

“Each campaign will have a table or a booth. We had South Bend goodies to hand out and platforms and buttons and stickers and all that. It’s basically a glorified school council election throughout the whole day.”

The next forum students attended was in Baltimore on Saturday. Galo, who attended both the Detroit and Baltimore forums, said seeing a young person make a difference in the Democratic party was inspiring.

“[Buttigieg is] so accessible, and he’s really sought out every member of our community to bring them together and work for the city,” he said. “ … For us, as college students, it’s really great to have a member of our generation moving forward with the party. We’re millennials and we’ve got a bad rap; he’s a millennial too, and he’s looking to bridge that gap.”

Sophomore Prathm Juneja, who interned with Buttigieg as a freshman, said his story is “so inspiring”: Buttigieg attended Harvard as an undergraduate before being named a Rhodes Scholar, served in the U.S. Navy Reserves and was the first openly gay executive in Indiana.

“[On Sunday], he had two fundraisers in Chicago, and he asked me if I could get four volunteers,” he said. “We went up to Chicago, and it was great. We basically just help out in anyway possible. That was organizing the events and getting them ready and decorating them and greeting people when they enter — anything to show how incredible [Buttigieg] is.”

If Buttigieg wins the chair, Ricketts said he has high hopes and expectations for the mayor to revitalize the Democratic party.

“One of the biggest struggles of the Democratic party is clearly connecting to voters,” he said. “There were huge losses and it’s not just about the presidency — it’s about the Congress, it’s about the state governors and the state legislators and even the local races.

“I think [Buttigieg], being a local guy, understands that winning the mayor’s race and winning the clerk’s race and winning the treasurer’s race, the sheriff, the school board; those are all important. … If we can build a party that recognizes it starts [locally] rather than in Washington, we’ll be much better off.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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