Buttigieg Rolls to Victory

Pete Buttigieg rolls to victory in South Bend mayoral primary

By Jeff Harrell, The South Bend Tribune

May 6, 2015

SOUTH BEND--In his first re-election bid, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg easily fended off a Democratic primary challenge from council member Henry Davis Jr., taking 78 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Seeking his second term, Buttigieg made a stronger showing than his first campaign in the 2011 primary. He won 8,369 votes Tuesday, up from 7,663 votes in 2011 when he ran against Democrats Mike Hamann, Ryan Dvorak and Barrett Berry.

"We think it's a very strong vote of confidence in our administration, our way of doing business and our team," Buttigieg told The Tribune at the West Side Democratic and Civic Club, moments after it became clear he had won. "We're thrilled with the results."

But the 2,405 people who voted for Davis weren't lost on the mayor.

"I'm going to do everything I can to convince everyone who voted a different way that we deserve their support," he said.

Buttigieg has pointed to a declining unemployment rate — down 4.5 points since he took office in 2012 — fewer vacant and abandoned houses, new development downtown and lower levels of crime as reasons for optimism.

He also noted ongoing infrastructure improvements related to the "Smart Streets" program and recent economic development announcements linked to $180 million in new investment and as many as 1,400 new jobs.

"Over the last four years we've been able to build a phenomenal record of results for the people of South Bend," Buttigieg told supporters at the club.

Davis, on the other hand, has said the city is in worse shape under Buttigieg, citing a rising homicide rate, lack of downtown development, too much poverty, and too many vacant and dilapidated houses being demolished instead of repaired.

After the results came in Tuesday night, Davis said he had expected to win.

"Things didn't pan out the way we wanted them to pan out, obviously," Davis said. "But I think we did a pretty good job of presenting the issues that affect South Bend. We have 30 percent of people living in poverty, 75 percent of children on free or reduced lunches. These numbers ... speak to a level of apathy here in South Bend. An election with less than 10,000 votes dictates who can continue to be in leadership roles while those things are not be attended to."

About 12 percent of registered voters cast ballots countywide, down from 16 percent in the 2011 primary when no incumbent was running, and up slightly from 10 percent in 2007.

Davis said he didn't know what the city's poverty and free/reduced lunch rate statistics were before Buttigieg took office, "but nothing is being done to change them.

"Smart Streets don't change that. Tearing down homes doesn't change that. We're dealing with bricks and mortar. We're not dealing with social and economic conditions of the people we have in the city."

Davis said he hadn't yet thought about what he will do when his council term expires at the end of the year. His only employment is his council seat, typically regarded by council members as a part-time role.

Buttigieg in the Nov. 3 general election will face Kelly S. Jones, a small business owner who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.