HARTSVILLE, S.C. – America “cannot survive another four years” of the policies of President Donald J. Trump, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg said Sunday when he brought his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president to Hartsville.
Buttigieg held a town hall meeting at Jerusalem Baptist Church.
He vowed to work to bring people of different political views together to work for a common good to address issues of concern to all Americans, including health care, racial divisions, immigration, the economy and national security.
The event was hosted by S.C. Sen. Gerald Malloy, a Democrat from Hartsville who also served as moderator and introduced Buttigieg. Malloy thanked the Democratic Women’s Council of Darlington County for helping to organize the meeting.
The stop in Hartsville was part of a two-day campaign swing through South Carolina for Buttigieg. He attended worship services at a church in Georgetown earlier Sunday and made appearances in Beaufort and Hampton on Saturday.
The 2020 South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary is scheduled for Feb. 29.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said his visit to the Palmetto State was aimed at hearing from voters in rural areas about the issues important to them.
“We’re trying to build a campaign that reflects the needs of every part of the country,” Buttigieg told the standing-room-only crowd. “In South Carolina, you’ve got your thumb on the scale of the presidential selection process right now.
“We are living in a moment that even now we may underestimate our state. Our political system is not working.”
Buttigieg fielded questions on a number of issues.
Americans’ economic freedom, women’s reproductive freedom and educational freedom are all at stake in this election, he said.
“You are not free if you don’t have health care,” Buttigieg said.
Asked about improving health care in rural areas, Buttigieg said he would shore up providers already working in rural areas and advocated what he called health equity zones.
“We are losing our rural providers at an alarming rate,” he said.
Assisting with transportation in rural areas also would help improve access to health care services, he said.
“It is time for a president and a secretary of education who believe in public education,” Buttigieg said.
He spoke about “systemic racism” and advocated assistance aimed at encouraging black entrepreneurs who want to start businesses and called for a 21st century voting rights act to counter racially motivated pressure that discourages black voting.
National security in the 21st century means dealing with cyber security, common-sense gun safety reform and with global environmental changes that threaten the planet, Buttigieg said.
Climate change, he said, “is the security issue of our time.”
Buttigieg said 2020 might be the only chance the country has to elect a president who believes that climate change is a major issue that must be dealt with.
One woman who identified herself as a Republican-turned-independent asked Buttigieg what he would do to try to reunify the country given the current polarized political climate.
“We can find a common cause,” Buttigieg said.
As one avenue, he suggested Peace Corps-like initiatives for national service such as a climate corps, a community health corps and an intergenerational corps to encourage greater participation in public service.
He said more people are willing to serve than there are opportunities available and called for more funding for service programs that he said have already been cut.
One man who said he came to the United States in 1987 as an immigrant asked about immigration policy.
“We are talking about an issue where the leadership is trying to divide us,” Buttigieg said. “What we have today is an insult to human values.”
He said cities and rural areas can benefit from better immigration policies.
“What he (Trump) calls an immigrant, I call a taxpayer, and I need more of them,” Buttigieg said.
And values, he said, are not the property of any political party.
“It is time to assert, once and for all, that God does not belong to one political party,” Buttigieg said.
Asked if he would consider a spot on the 2020 ticket as the vice presidential nominee, Buttigieg said, “I’m in it to win it.”
Buttigieg announced his candidacy for president on April 14.
He was elected as South Bend mayor in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Buttigieg also served as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve from 2009-2017, during which he became a lieutenant and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. He also served as a consultant from 2009-2013.
During his second term as mayor, Buttigieg revealed that he is gay. When he announced for president, he became the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president.