Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is not your typical candidate for president. Here are a few facts about ‘Mayor Pete.’
WASHINGTON – The war of increasingly personal words between Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Mike Pence’s defenders escalated Tuesday as Republicans accused Buttigieg of trying to raise his profile through “unhinged, mean-spirited attacks” that are a complete reversal of the relationship the pair had when Pence was Indiana’s governor.
Republicans, including the vice president’s spokeswoman, distributed positive comments that Pence previously made about Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
“Since some are asking: the last time we recall Pence even mentioned @PeteButtigieg was in 2015, after news that Pete came out, Pence said: “I hold Mayor Buttigieg in the highest personal regard. I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot,” tweeted spokeswoman Alyssa Farah.
In a rebuke retweeted by Pence’s daughter Charlotte, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said Buttigieg is not pushing back honestly against Pence’s policies. Rather, “You have maligned his religious beliefs and character,” Shapiro tweeted.
And while Pence hasn’t commented, his wife said Tuesday that people shouldn’t be attacked for their religious beliefs.
“I don’t think the vice president does have a problem with him,” Karen Pence added on Fox News host Brian Kilmeade’s radio show. “But I think it’s helping Pete to get some notoriety by saying that about the vice president.”
Buttigieg has previously made a distinction between Pence’s views on homosexuality and his treatment of people, which he did again on Twitter Tuesday in an apparent response to the GOP criticism.
“People will often be polite to you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family,” he tweeted. “You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back, honestly and emphatically. So it goes, in the public square.”
The escalation came two days after Buttigieg made headlines by saying in a speech Sunday that he wishes the “Mike Pences” of the world would understand that he didn’t chose to be gay.
“That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator,” Buttigieg said at a fundraising brunch for a group that supports LGBTQ candidates.
The remarks were the most personal that Buttigieg has made about Pence. But the candidate, who is expected to make his presidential bid official on Sunday, has previously described Pence’s views as “fanatical.”
He has also said Pence “embarrassed” Indiana with his support for a “religious freedom” law that critics viewed as a license to discriminate against gay people.
And Buttigieg has questioned how an evangelical Christian like Pence could “allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency.”
In a dig at both Pence and President Donald Trump, Buttigieg likes to say that he has more years of experience in government than Trump, more years of executive experience than Pence, and more military experience than the two of them put together.”
In an interview with USA TODAY last month, Buttigieg said his frequent references to Pence were “more a media phenomenon.”
“I’m from Indiana so it’s natural that the question comes up,” he said. “Frankly, I think the less this election is about the president or the vice president, the better, because they’re going to come and go. And the problems that, in my view, produced their presidency is going to remain, unless we’re dealing with the root causes of a very chaotic and disaffected time for the American voting public.”
Republicans, however, accuse Buttigieg of attacking Pence to raise his own profile.
“After years of maintaining a positive, working relationship with Vice President Pence, Buttigieg has decided that it’s now more politically expedient for him to drag that relationship through the mud with personal attacks,” Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said in a statement.
In an email to supporters, the state GOP asked backers to #StandWithMike.
“Would you be willing to post your support for Vice President Pence on your social media account?” Hupfer asked.
Buttigieg devotes a chapter to Pence in his best-selling memoir, “Shortest Way Home.”
Having known Pence’s reputation as one of the “conservative warriors” on Capitol Hill, Buttigieg writes, he was surprised by “how affable, even gentle” Pence seemed when they first met in 2011 at an event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After attending Pence’s gubernatorial inauguration in 2013, Buttiegieg said he caught up to him at a reception and mentioned his eagerness to work together.
“He gave a sincere nod and heartily agreed,” Buttigieg wrote, “and a long and complicated relationship began.”
In the book, Buttigieg praised Pence for championing as governor a “visionary economic development effort” that South Bend took advantage of. He includes Pence’s return praise of him – words that the Indiana GOP recirculated Tuesday – at an event at a former automobile factory being renovated into a technology center with help from the economic development program.
“South Bend, Indiana, is so blessed to have an energetic, innovative, forward-looking, creative mayor in Pete Buttigieg,” Pence said.
When Buttigieg, a member of the Naval Reserve, was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014, a noticeably moved Pence called Buttigieg the day he was driving to the base.
A year later, however, Buttigieg was a vocal opponent of the “religious freedom” bill Pence signed into law, setting off a furor that included a backlash from businesses and prompted Pence and the state legislature to amend the law.
A few months later, Buttigieg came out in a personal essay published in the South Bend Tribune. When a local television station asked Pence for his reaction, he didn’t comment on the substance of the piece. Instead, Pence called Buttigieg a dedicated public servant and a patriot – the praise his spokeswoman and wife referred to Tuesday.
“I’m just like, ‘Pete, did you not like that?’” Karen Pence said on the Fox News radio show. “Because that’s what the vice president said about him. What’s the problem with that?”
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