South Bend Elects Buttigieg

Mayor-elect Buttigieg promises fresh start for South Bend

November 8, 2011

By Kevin Allen, The South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Pete Buttigieg promised a fresh start for South Bend if voters elected him to be the city’s next mayor.

And, on Tuesday, residents overwhelmingly handed him the reins.

The 29-year-old Buttigieg handily beat Republican Wayne Curry and Libertarian Patrick Farrell in what was the first South Bend mayoral race without an incumbent since 1987.

Buttigieg declared victory about 6:25 p.m. — just 25 minutes after polls closed. Less than an hour later, he was speaking to party faithful at the West Side Democratic Club, where he thanked his campaign staff for their work, his parents, Joseph Buttigieg and Ann Montgomery, for their support, and his opponents for contributing to a respectful, constructive mayoral race.

Buttigieg received nearly 74 percent of the 14,883 votes cast in the city, according to unofficial results. Curry garnered 19 percent, and Farrell picked up 7 percent.

His victory Tuesday probably didn’t surprise many political observers.

South Bend voters have chosen Democratic mayors for the past 40 years, and Buttigieg won big — capturing 55 percent of the vote — in a four-candidate Democratic primary in May.

"When I entered this race in January, not a lot of people believed that a young man with a funny name who had never held office before could earn the confidence of a community at a turning point," he said in his speech at the West Side Club, "but together we have shown that South Bend can transcend old barriers, move beyond old habits and take a chance on a new way forward."

Born and raised in South Bend, the St. Joseph’s High School alumnus emphasized during his campaign that the city needed a fresh start. He highlighted his business experience with global consulting firm McKinsey and Co., and attracted voters with his credentials as a Harvard graduate and former Rhodes Scholar.

Buttigieg implored supporters Tuesday night to turn their sights toward a different kind of campaign — not a campaign for a politician but a campaign to make South Bend stronger, safer and cleaner.

"From day one, the fundamental vision of this campaign has been a fresh start to tackle our city’s toughest challenges," he said, "and that’s what we’re going to do.

"We’re going to gather the leadership of this community to deliver a new economic direction, building on our greatest strengths, true to our traditions, while looking for new sources of wealth and income and prosperity.

"We’re going to apply new tools to confront our crisis in vacant and abandoned housing. We’re going to forge new alliances to ensure that our city is a powerful ally to the school system. We’re going to find every way possible to stand up against violence and crime. And we’re going to create a new culture of customer service so that our city services can be as efficient, transparent and cost effective as possible.

"We’re going to think bigger about South Bend’s borders," he said. "We’re going to find new ways to find partnerships, not just across the region but around the world, so that South Bend is truly a global city."

Buttigieg said South Bend has a long history of triumphs and challenges, and the city’s residents understand the way forward will never be easy or obvious.

"But while we don’t know exactly what the future will bring, we know what it takes to get there," he said.

"We know that our survival depends on new thinking, and that’s what tonight is about. We’re going to lay aside old habits and old divisions, we’re going to transcend old rivalries, we’re going to abandon old prejudices.

"The only way we can recover and surpass what our old prosperity was is with new energy, new options and new alliances. We must take new risks and create new opportunities.

"We must, we can, we will," he concluded, "and it all starts tonight, and it all starts with you."

Curry said in a phone interview Tuesday night that he wishes Buttigieg well in the mayor’s office.

"I think we ran a positive race," he said. "There were some issues, such as crime and neighborhoods, that will be addressed better because I was in the race."

Curry said he considers Buttigieg a friend and will be willing to work with him to improve the city.

Farrell said he’s not sure the election outcome will be good for South Bend.

"I wish Pete the best," he said. "I hope Pete does what he says he’s gonna do, but down deep I know it will be Democrats as usual."

Outgoing Mayor Stephen Luecke, who has been in South Bend’s top job for 15 years, said he is enthusiastic about the city’s future.

Leaving the mayor’s office is bittersweet, he said, but it’s reassuring to know he has a good successor.

"I think Pete brings great energy, a lot of positive ideas and experience," said Luecke, the longest-serving mayor in South Bend history, "and I think he’s going to bring some young people into government, too. That will be good to just keep recharging the city."

St. Joseph County Democratic Chairman John Broden announced at the West Side Club that Buttigieg will be the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with at least 100,000 residents when he takes office Jan. 1.

"But do not mistake that youth for a lack of vision or a lack of clarity and purpose," Broden said. "Pete Buttigieg has a vision for the city of South Bend, and we will see that vision unfold as we move forward."

Voter turnout was low Tuesday compared with the city’s previous mayoral election in 2007, when Luecke won 62 percent of 19,884 votes to win re-election over Republican Juan Manigault.