Walking through Veterans Village, a nonprofit that works with those experiencing homelessness, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was greeted by Doug Miller, another former South Bend native who is currently a resident of the organization.
The two shook hands and Buttigieg informed Miller that we he was running for president — Buttigieg, correcting himself a few seconds later, saying he was “exploring” running for president.
Buttigieg toured Veterans Village to hear about the local work to combat homelessness and stole a few moments to introduce himself to other residents — veterans like him.
Visiting local spots and interacting with people like Miller encapsulated the spirit of Buttigieg’s first visit to Las Vegas, which was less about a long, stump speeches and more one-on-one connections with people.
“Running for office is an act of hope,” he said. “It is an act of belief in this country and hope that when we use the political mechanisms that make America America and fix it into something that will make our lives better.”
Though he acknowledges he didn’t start the campaign with name recognition, in the two months since launching his exploratory campaign the 37-year-old mayor has gained a lot of attention as well as monetary support. In addition to being a Navy veteran, he is a Rhodes Scholar, and the first major Democratic presidential candidate who is openly gay.
All of these perspectives are important, especially his youth, since Buttigieg said he is part of the generation that should have a say in the future.
“So many from my generation were the troops sent to Afghanistan after 9/11,” he said. “We are the generation that will be at the business end of climate change. We will be the first generation to be economically worse off than our parents.”
But he is also another white male candidate running against multiple, high-profiled women during a time where more women are running for, and winning, political offices against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement.
“I believe I have something to offer that’s not like any of the other candidates,” he says. “I also believe that gender inclusion and gender representation has never been more important. I think it’s moving in the right direction, but not fast enough. I think the next president, especially if it is a male president, will have to go above and beyond when it comes to establishing gender diversity in the leadership of the administration.”
Buttigieg’s first stop of the morning was a coffee shop where he answered questions about health care policy, how to fix damage inflicted by the Trump administration, and rooting corruption and big campaign contributions from lobbyists out of politics.
“I believe every politician who has Medicare for All come out of their mouths should have an explanation to how to get there,” he said. “The way we do it, in my view, is to take a version of health care like Medicare and make if available for everyone to get into as an option on the (health care) exchange.”
“I’m convinced that if we get that right, it will take us to a single payer environment,” he said.
Leaving the crowded coffee shop, Buttigieg headed to Veterans Village near downtown Las Vegas.
Arnold Stalk, the founder of Veterans Village, said he has sent invites to other presidential candidates campaigning in Southern Nevada. Only one other presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, has visited Veterans Village. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson have also visited.
Stalk gave Buttigieg an overview of getting homeless veterans connected to housing along with other needed resources to leave the streets.
Buttigieg said that Veterans Village shows there are a lot of solutions to tackling homelessness that can be found on the local level. But any efforts need to be coupled with federal support. “It starts with a White House that trusts a community to come up with the right answers,” he said.
While not identifying specific housing policy proposals — lack of affordable housing is another issue that contributes to homelessness — Buttigieg said there needs to be a way to fix the waitlist for public housing as one solution to affordable housing issues.
“Maybe in a lot of markets where we think about housing affordability as a housing policy it might be smarter to think about it as an income problem,” he said.
In addition to policies, Buttigieg spoke to “undoing the damage caused by the current administration.” While denouncing racism and the voters who court racist ideology, he also talked about unity saying that “we are not better people for how we voted.”
“The damage of this president will outlive how long this president is in office,” Buttigieg said. “We have to model a better way. We have a lot of work to do.”