Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg visits West Sacramento


Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg introduces himself to the crowd Sept. 29 in West Sacramento before participating in an audience-led question and answer session. The 37-year-old candidate and mayor of South Bend, Ind. spent 90 minutes on site for the “A Grassroots Picnic with Pete Buttigieg” event. Photo by Trinity Barker

San Jose resident Ms. Courtney Guestscow made a last-minute decision Sunday morning to make the nearly three-hour drive to attend A Grassroots Picnic with Pete Buttigieg. She said she’s been campaigning for Mayor Pete since March or April.

“It’s the only antidote to the terror and horror that is going on in D.C. right now,” she said. “[Buttigieg] restored happiness in my life. For like two-and-a-half years [in the current White House administration] you’re just really scared, really sad and angry … and then this man comes into your world, and he’s just light. It just changed everything for me.”

The event took place Sept. 29 at Drake’s: The Barn next to Raley Field and packed a crowd of paid supporters waving posters, waiting in line for food trucks and wearing colorful hats, shirts and campaign buttons supporting the South Bend, Indiana mayor, one of 15+ current Democratic party candidates vying for the party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election. Tickets ranged from a $5 student donation to open contributions made online to Pete for America.

Others came not as paid supporters but as volunteers to help with the campaign.

Susana Tupper helped direct traffic and organize crowds at the entrance to The Barn. Gates opened at 11:30 for the 1 p.m. event, and Tupper used the opportunity to drum up support as visitors passed by.

“I’m supporting Pete is because I align with his values. Not just freedom from government but freedom to get health care, freedom to be able to have women decide for themselves their bodily autonomy. I think government can work for people. Pete’s big on actually making structural changes in our democracy like fixing the electoral college, fixing the Supreme Court so it’s not so political — real structural changes to help democracy work the way it’s intended to work,” Tupper said. 

In this introduction, West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon welcomed Sacramento-area supporters, asking who came from surrounding areas like Placer County. He referenced local concerns such as violence in Citrus Heights along with larger issues like mental health challenges and climate change, calling for a leader who goes beyond “insider politics.” 

“We’ve got to live together tomorrow in a democracy,” Cabaldon said.

As Buttigieg stepped on stage, the two leaders embraced. In addition to their shared roles as mayor, they also had a common thread of serving their communities as openly gay leaders.

“Boot-edge-edge” chants rose over the applause as he smiled, paused and thanked everyone for attending the event. What followed was part speech, part conversation. He spoke slowly, appeared to listen carefully and spoke frankly.

The common theme was one of unity and acceptance.

“Protecting the country means protecting each other,” Buttigieg said.

In his prepared remarks, the candidate made several references to President Donald Trump without naming him specifically, drawing cheers from the crowd when he referred to building a wall for border security as an 18th-century technique. “It’s more complicated than that,” he said.

Buttigieg took another jab at the president later when asked what things would be like if he were to win the presidency in 2020.

 “When you turn on the TV to see White House coverage your blood pressure will go down instead of up,” he said.

As expected, he made familiar statements about climate disruption and his promises to keep schools and places of worship safe.

Asked point-blank about whether he would ban assault weapons, Buttigieg said yes and paused for effect as the crowd cheered. He gave a shoutout to Moms Demand Action for attending the event and elaborated on why he things gun policy needs to change.

“This is one thing kids are worrying about. We’re supposed to take care of that so you can focus on being a kid,” he said.

Another thing kids are worrying about is how to pay for college. 

“We’ve got to not just make it more affordable to go to college but more affordable to not go to college,” Buttigieg said.

He asked whether any teachers were in the crowd and spoke about education for nearly three minutes, which was longer than most other topics in his speech.

“We’ve got to support the teaching profession better than we have. Some of the things we need to do are abundantly simple, like pay teachers more. I say that because so much depends on the profession,” Buttigieg said.

He proposed federal funding for teacher pay enhancement grants and referenced updating education standards to reflect 21st-century education, along with emphasis on critical thinking and dealing with people.

Throughout the speech, supporters waved posters and homemade signs. Others recorded from their smartphones. Members of a same-sex couple near the stage held hands, both wearing Mayor Pete shirts in the rainbow pride color scheme.

“We need to elect a leader who can cultivate a sense of belonging,” he said. “Everybody means everybody.””

— Mayor Pete Buttigieg

In keeping with the personal and picnic-like atmosphere advertised by event coordinators, the talk shifted to a question-and-answer format based on questions submitted by attendees ahead of time. Some were deeply personal, others more lighthearted. Whether answering about his favorite book (Ulysses by James Joyce) or suggestions for how to plan a wedding, or tackling bigger questions about the possibility of a presidential impeachment, Buttigieg smiled and asked who submitted each question so he could thank them and address them personally in his response.

After stepping from the stage, Mayor Pete spent 10 minutes moving through the crowd to greet attendees. He signed copies of his book, “Shortest Way Home,” shook hands, took selfies and listened to short messages from supporters of all ages.

Roseville student Emily Holpuch said, “I am not old enough to vote yet. But if I was able to at the moment I would vote for him.” 

Meanwhile, other Democratic candidates have California visits scheduled as well. Andrew Yang is scheduled to speak at a rally in Los Angeles Sept. 30 and Beto O’Rourke will visit  for an L.A. event Oct. 5. Elizabeth Warren is scheduled to visit San Diego Oct. 3 after visiting Nevada to speak at the Presidential Gun Safety Forum hosted by March for Our Lives.