Pete Wins Big on Primary Day

By Jeff Parrott, The South Bend Tribune

May 4, 2011

SOUTH BEND -- Pete Buttigieg captured a surprisingly decisive win Tuesday in the Democratic South Bend mayoral primary.

The 29-year-old former Rhodes Scholar will face Republican Wayne Curry, a 50-year-old carpenter who runs his own home improvement business, in the Nov. 1 general election.

Curry, with 66 percent of the vote, easily beat GOP primary opponents Bill Davis, 25 percent, and Will Taylor, 9 percent.

Buttigieg took 54 percent of the votes, followed by Mike Hamann with 20 percent, Ryan Dvorak with 15 percent and Barrett Berry with 10 percent.

Buttigieg said he didn't expect such a large margin of victory.

"I knew our message was resonating but I never could have expected this level of success," he said. "It's a testament to the hard work of our team and this city's eagerness for a fresh start."

His 7,663 votes outnumbered the 6,262 votes that Hamann, Dvorak and Berry collected, combined.

Dvorak conceded the race by 6:45 p.m., just 45 minutes after the polls closed.

"I called Pete just a little while ago to congratulate him on winning," Dvorak, holding his 2-year-old daughter Caroline and accompanied by his pregnant wife Angie, told his supporters at his campaign headquarters. "He ran a great campaign. I think everybody in the city of South Bend is really excited about moving things forward, and I think we're all going to be on board helping him in November, helping all of our Democratic candidates win."

Hamann arrived at the West Side Democratic and Civic Club just minutes after the final results had been announced.

"I'm not really surprised by it," Hamann said of Buttigieg's win, "except from the standpoint that Pete had really big numbers."

Hamann noted that Buttigieg "did well in all areas of the city, not just the west side but the south side. So it seems like he got a lot of crossover votes from Republicans."

Despite the outcome, he said he and his campaign team had "no regrets."
"We did everything humanly possible," he said. "Eight thousand doors we knocked on ... we raised as much money as we could ... I can't imagine doing anything different."

Asked about his plans for the future, "I'm going to take a little time off and grieve, and my family is, too," he said, adding that he does not plan to be present at Tuesday's meeting of the County Council, of which he is a member.

Hamann's wife, Mary Hamann, died suddenly April 22 while preparing for her daughter's wedding in Paraguay.

Hamann said her death "hit me pretty hard, honestly," but "I have a great situation, a great life. I have a wonderful job at St. Joseph's High School ... and wonderful family and friends. So life is good."

Buttigieg never trailed once the vote results started coming in. His supporters crammed into his headquarters and cheered a little louder as his lead grew.

With 5 percent of precincts reporting, he had 51 percent. With 22 percent reporting, he inched up to 53 percent, provoking a loud round of applause.

At 7:08 p.m., with 90 percent of precincts in, Buttigieg had his 54 percent and walked into his headquarters.

The place erupted.

"Pete! Pete! Pete!" the crowd chanted.

Buttigieg hugged supporters and made his way to a podium at the front of the room.

"I am delighted to announce to you that I am the Democratic nominee for mayor of South Bend," he said, to loud cheers and applause. "A few moments ago I accepted my opponents' gracious congratulations, and I congratulated them on a spirited campaign.

"When all of this began, few people thought this would be possible."

He thanked his staff by name, each person receiving a round of applause.

"I know I've asked a lot of you these last few months and weeks, and you deserve a rest and the satisfaction of a job well done. But after you catch your breath, I'm going to need you more than ever. It's going to take all of us, working together, to make good on the promises I made in this campaign."

Later, Mayor Stephen Luecke, who never publicly endorsed anyone in the race, met Buttigieg on the sidewalk outside his headquarters and shook his hand.
"My door's open," Luecke said to him, "and we'll start talking right away, continue talking."

"Pete ran a hell of a race," Luecke told reporters after their exchange. "His campaign reached out to all parts of the community. I feel great about Pete's style and his ability and the people he has surrounded himself with. I'm excited for this new generation of leadership for South Bend."

Luecke said he was "looking forward to working with him on a smooth transition -- of course, I'm making some assumptions there, but I say that based on how strong a campaign he's run."

That was a reference to Buttigieg's next campaign against Curry, who will try to become the city's first Republican mayor in 40 years.

"I'm sure everybody's writing me off, but you never know what happens in an election," Curry said.

Curry was unable to raise much campaign money in the primary.

"I think I'll be able to raise more money than I did in the primary," he said. "I don't think I'll raise what Pete Buttigieg did, a quarter of a million dollars, which was phenomenal."

He said he was unsure whether Republicans will give him support in the general election. Some in the GOP, such as many South Gateway Association business leaders, had been supporting Hamann.

"I think the party will help me to some degree," he said. "How much, we'll have to see."