By Jeff Parrott, The South Bend Tribune
March 31, 2011
SOUTH BEND — The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County is endorsing Pete Buttigieg in South Bend’s Democratic mayoral primary race, the group announced Thursday.
Although the Chamber in recent years has started endorsing school board candidates, this is the first time it has endorsed a mayoral candidate, said Chamber President and CEO Jeff Rea.
The Chamber asked candidates to fill out an extensive questionnaire, and then brought them in for “an exhaustive day” of interviews, Rea said.
After the candidates’ forum that the Chamber co-sponsored Tuesday night at Century Center, members of a committee met and realized they were most impressed by Buttigieg, Rea said.
“The Chamber felt Pete presented a great energy and enthusiasm, and the real spark that is needed,” Rea said.
Buttigieg said the endorsement is important because the next mayor will have to find ways to help existing businesses expand and draw new employers to the city.
“This election is about jobs, and the top priority of the next mayor has to be on putting people to work in good jobs,” Buttigieg said.
“I have the most experience when it comes to business and economics,” he said. “I’m the only candidate who has been involved in multibillion dollar decisions in the private sector, with some of the world’s top firms.”
Before resigning to return to South Bend and run unsuccessfully for Indiana state treasurer last year, Buttigieg worked for Chicago-based McKinsey & Company, where he was responsible for advising senior business and government leaders on major decisions related to economic development, energy policy, strategic business initiatives and logistics, according to a Chamber statement.
Rea said the Chamber has not yet determined whether it will back up its endorsement with financial contributions to Buttigieg’s campaign.
The group chose Buttigieg over Democrats Ryan Dvorak, Mike Hamann and Barrett Berry. It is not making an endorsement in the Republican primary, which consists of candidates Wayne Curry, Will Taylor and Bill Davis.
Although the Chamber represents employers in the community, Buttigeig, when asked, said he is not worried the endorsement will work against him when it comes to garnering support from organized labor — a key constituency in a Democratic primary.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “Ultimately, we need a bigger economic pie for everybody.”
Jack Colwell, Tribune political columnist, agreed.
“I think it helps him quite a bit,” Colwell said, “because a lot of people who normally vote Republican (and are Chamber members) are going to vote in the Democratic primary because they know that’s really going to be the election.
“The local Chamber has not been that partisan, in the way that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been. They have a lot of Democratic members, as well as Republicans, in the local Chamber.”