Pete Buttigieg said Georgia was “on the cusp of becoming a blue state” and that voter suppression kept Stacey Abrams from becoming governor.
Buttigieg (photo) made the comments Thursday at the African-American Leadership Council Summit in downtown Atlanta. He also attended three fundraisers, including one with several LGBTQ Atlanta hosts that garnered over $100,000 for the presidential candidate.
The South Bend, Ind., mayor’s appearance was just one reason Georgia became the center of the 2020 presidential campaign on Thursday. Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke were also in Atlanta for a number of events.
Buttigieg told the crowd at the summit that, despite the U.S. going through a tumultuous time, he is hopeful “because of [his] own story.”
“As somebody who joined the military at the beginning of this decade knowing that it was the policy of that same military to kick me out if I were honest about who I was, and now standing before you — married to my husband — a top tier candidate for president of the United States,” he said.
Buttigieg said that Abrams was robbed of the governorship in her race against Brian Kemp.
“Stacey Abrams ought to be the governor of Georgia,” he said. “When racially motivated voter suppression is permitted, when districts are drawn so that politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around, when money is allowed to outvote people in this country, we cannot truly say that we live in a democracy.”
He called for expanding automatic voter registration, making Election Day a federal holiday and expanding vote by mail.
Buttigieg and Abrams were set to meet on Thursday, according to The Hill. Abrams was spotted walking into the summit after Buttigieg’s speech.
He denounced Republicans who criticize identity politics, saying that the White House under President Trump is “peak white identity politics designed to drive us all apart.”
Buttigieg also touched on criminal justice reform, saying that drug possession should not result in a prison sentence, private prisons should end and prolonged solitary confinement “is torture and that’s why it must be brought to an end.”
“I believe it is time for a new generation of American leadership at every level, including all the way up to the White House,” he added.
'Georgia is ready for an LGBTQ president'
Buttigieg started the day with a fundraiser at Ted Turner’s house in Atlanta. He ended it with a discussion on government trust, justice and entrepreneurship in communities of color at Variety Playhouse.
In-between, several LGBTQ Atlanta residents hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg at the home of Laura and Rutherford Seydel. Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi and state Reps. Scott Holcomb and Beth Moore also hosted the event.
State Rep. Matthew Wilson, another host and one of five openly LGBTQ members of the legislature, said that the event raised over $100,000.
“I think we showed that Georgia is ready for an LGBTQ president,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “Pete’s vision for our country’s future is catching on like wildfire and it’s no wonder.”
“His unique qualifications of executive service, military service and Midwest upbringing are a stark contrast to our current leader, and I think Pete will make an incredible president. I’m very proud to endorse him,” he added.
Fred Smith, an Emory University law professor and member of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ LGBTQ Advisory Board, said the energy in the room was “electric.”
“He shared his ambitious, progressive vision of reforming our democracy, reclaiming freedom and rebuilding our economy to meet 21st century needs,” he said.
Buttigieg’s campaign did not respond to Project Q Atlanta's question about how much the fundraisers brought in.
Tony Conway, founder and CEO of Legendary Events, and former Atlanta mayoral candidate Kyle Keyser were the other LGBTQ hosts of the event.
The Democratic National Committee held its I Will Vote Gala on Thursday night at Flourish, one of Legendary Events’ venues in Buckhead.
Buttigieg and his husband Chasten went to former President Jimmy Carter’s church and Sunday school service in Plains, Ga., in May. Chasten Buttigieg also delivered the keynote address at the National LGBTQ Health Conference on May 31 at Emory University.