Importantville: Buttigieg’s Staff Hits 250 As Indiana Becomes 2020 Epicenter

Illustration by Kris Davidson

Welcome back to Importantville. I’m back from a much-needed vacation.

First in Importantville: Bakari Sellers, the CNN commentator, will join the Young Democrats of America convention as a surrogate for California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Where’s Veep? He unveils Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and then joins the president for a cabinet meeting.

Where’s Pete? He heads to Kansas City tomorrow to join his fellow vet Jason Kander’s Veterans Community Project. He’ll be joined by Kansas City Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas.

Hogsett’s Ad: Joe Hogsett released his second ad of his Indianapolis mayoral campaign, “Hudnut,” a nod to the city’s longest-serving mayor, the late Bill Hudnut.

“Mayor Joe and Mayor Bill have both always shared the goal of lifting our city up – whether that’s meant building up our downtown skyline like Mayor Bill, or adding tens of thousands of jobs, like Mayor Joe,” said Heather K. Sager, spokesperson for the campaign. “Just like Mayor Bill, Mayor Joe has always been more interested in what we can accomplish together, rather than what side of the aisle you sit on. That message of vision and accomplishment is why we’re proud to launch ‘Hudnut’ today.”

Importantville Take: Hogsett is pursuing a fascinating general election ad strategy this cycle, appealing more to bipartisanship and civic pride than traditional political ad tropes.

Importantville, indeed. Over the next two weeks, Indianapolis will see the most presidential aspirants come to town since the May 2016 primary. Democratic contenders Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Seth Moulton will makes stops in the city for the Young Democrats of America convention this week and the National Urban League conference next week. By the time the dust settles, the state will have seen seven major Democratic presidential hopefuls visit the state this year.

This week, thousands of Democrats will gather in the city to hear from 2020 Buttigieg and Seth Moulton, along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. On Thursday, Buttigieg addresses the convention at 7 p.m. (Chasten will be across town at a Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall event held at the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters.) On Friday, Rep. Seth Moulton will speak at 11 a.m. Pelosi will speak later that night at 7 p.m.

The event could prove a spark to a generation of young Hoosier Democrats who have seen their party all but laid to waste by a Republican juggernaut that has outflanked them at nearly every step for more than a decade.

But looking around the state, it’s hard not to notice the energy among 20 and 30-year-old Democrats—an energy that didn’t exist five years ago.

Consider this, as reported by my Indianapolis Monthly colleague Matt Gonzales:

“According to outgoing Indiana Federation of Young Republicans president Abby Bauer, IFYR boasts 2,290 members throughout 35 county chapters in Indiana. That makes IYD’s 300-person statewide membership look rather paltry by comparison. Yet, despite its smaller size, IYD seems more energized than its Republican rival. For example, digging up information online about the Indiana Federation of Young Republicans is challenging. As of this writing, its website leads to an error page. Its social media presence is stagnant, which may explain why IYD has twice as many followers than IFYR on Facebook and Twitter.”

GOP response: “I have heard more about the Denver Broncos than I have about the Indiana Young Democrats,” Pete Seat, executive director of strategic communications for the Indiana Republican Party, told Indianapolis Monthly. “I would also say, from our side of the aisle, we have an extremely strong network of College Republican and Young Republican chapters.”

The Delegation

Outgoing Rep. Susan Books yesterday became the only Hoosier Republican to speak out against the president’s racist “go back” tweet.

“As Americans, there is more that unites us than divides us,” Brooks wrote in a Facebook post. “The President’s remarks to my colleagues across the aisle are inappropriate and do not reflect American values. ALL of our elected officials need to raise their level of civility in order to address the serious issues facing our country.”

The silence from the rest of the delegation is stunning.

That could change soon, though, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to force members on the record with a vote on the formal resolution condemning the president.

Importantville Take: The Hoosier Republican delegation likely falls into two camps: Those who think the president did nothing wrong, share his views, and think the media is being biased in their coverage of his remarks; and those who know what he tweeted is indefensible but fear the political consequences of speaking out against him. Consider this excerpt from the Indiana GOP’s 2018 platform: “We believe that a diversity of cultures, thought and perspectives make our nation strong.”

That sentiment contradicts the content of the president’s tweets.

The Buttigieg Beat

Buttigieg posted his second quarter FEC filing. He officially out-raised the entire Democratic field. The report revealed that he continues to enjoy support among Hollywood celebs, a fact we’re sure to hear in a Republican attack ad: Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, Michael J. Fox, Mandy Moore, and John Stamos were all among his contributors.

  • Buttigieg raised $24.9 million, spent $8.8 million and has $22.7 million cash on hand.
  • Buttigieg’s campaign now numbers 250 staffers, per CNN. When I first started covering the nascent campaign, there were something like 3.
  • The rundown: “57 people in Iowa, 39 people in New Hampshire, 13 people in Nevada and 26 people in South Carolina.”

Around Importantville

  • A Hoosier is now the highest-ranking woman at the Department of Defense. Lisa Hershman is the Deputy Chief Management Officer and Performing the Duties of the Chief Management Officer.
  • Christina Hale, who is running for Indiana’ss Fifth Congressional District, raised $100,000 in the first 100 hours of her candidacy, according to her campaign. That’s more than half of what Dee Thornton raised in the entire 2018 cycle ($189,395.49).

Importantville Reads

Jeremy Peters, The New York Times: “Pete Buttigieg’s Life in the Closet

The closet that Pete Buttigieg built for himself in the late 1990s and 2000s was a lot like the ones that other gay men of his age and ambition hid inside. He dated women, deepened his voice and furtively looked at MySpace and Friendster profiles of guys who had come out — all while wondering when it might be safe for him to do so too.

Chris Pappas, who was two years ahead of Mr. Buttigieg at Harvard and is now a Democratic congressman from New Hampshire, said he arrived at college “pretty much convinced that I couldn’t have a career or pursue politics as an L.G.B.T. individual.” Jonathan Darman, who was one class ahead of Mr. Buttigieg, remembered how people often reacted to a politician’s coming out then: “It wasn’t a story of love but of acknowledging illicit desire.” And Amit Paley, who graduated in Mr. Buttigieg’s class, recalled that “it was still a time where vocalizing anti-gay sentiments was not only common, but I think pretty accepted.”