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Mayor Pete’s African American Problem

Buttigieg black voters
While former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is having his presidential campaign events disrupted by protests by African American voters allegedly affiliated with the radical group Black Lives Matter his problems attracting the Black vote go much deeper than his problems with hometown radicals.

The Hill’s John Bowden reported protesters with a local Black Lives Matter group disrupted a Buttigieg event being held in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday. Videos showed demonstrators wearing Black Lives Matter shirts being led out by security while chanting "anti-black, anti-poor," apparently referring to Buttigieg. Earlier, they had engaged in a brief discussion with the presidential candidate from the audience during his speech onstage.

Bowden reported the disruption came just days after a Buttigieg campaign event in California was visited by roughly a dozen Black Lives Matter protesters, several of whom told the Los Angeles Times they were from Buttigieg's hometown of South Bend. Those protesters added that their travel was funded by an outside group, though they clarified they were not funded by any presidential campaigns.

Writing for the L.A. Times, Matt Pearce reported that on a sidewalk outside an LA homeless shelter where Buttigieg was making a campaign stop a small group of about a dozen Black Lives Matter protesters loudly heckled Buttigieg as “anti-black and anti-poor” over his record in South Bend, where his eight years as mayor ended Jan. 1.

According to Mr. Pearce’s reporting, three of the Black Lives Matters demonstrators outside the shelter said they had traveled from South Bend to protest Buttigieg. They criticized the former mayor’s handling of South Bend’s homelessness problem and focused on the recent death of Anthony Young, a 44-year-old man who, according to local news reports, died of hypothermia outside on a downtown path in mid-December, while Buttigieg was still in office.

“We haven’t seen Mayor Pete in a while. I’m surprised he’s here at a shelter [in Los Angeles] and not in South Bend at a shelter. We miss his face,” Kahmiil Middleton, 22, of South Bend said in an interview. She criticized Buttigieg for not returning to South Bend last month to address Young’s death. “We understand that he’s campaigning, but when you’re mayor, you have a job to do. He did not make that his priority.”

Mr. Pearce reported that Middleton was joined by fellow South Bend protesters Anthony Thomson, 22, and Katheryn Redding, who said she was also protesting over South Bend police issues. Redding, who has been identified in previous news coverage as a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said she wants South Bend to create a civilian police review board with subpoena power.

Middleton vowed to continue the protests: “Wherever he goes, we’ll go, because we don’t want to be forgotten.”

Kendall Karson of ABC News points out Black voters have an outsized role in the Democratic primary, with the pivotal influence that comes with representing 21% of the Democratic electorate, according to data from the most recent presidential election.

While African Americans constitute a relatively small percentage of the vote in Iowa (about 3.4% of the total population of the Hawkeye State) they are a key constituency in other early states on the Democratic Party’s primary election calendar, especially South Carolina where nearly 30% of the population is African American.

The Chicago Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart reported Buttigieg’s African American problem was driven home in June, when a white South Bend police officer shot and killed a black burglary suspect armed with a knife, an incident that was not captured on the officer’s body or vehicle cameras. The incident flared racial tensions in the city, brought renewed attention to the mayor’s shaky relationship with some factions of South Bend’s black community and forced Buttigieg off the campaign trail for a week as he weathered the fallout.

Since then, Mr. Ruthhart reports the mayor has returned campaign contributions tied to an attorney involved in Chicago’s Laquan McDonald police shooting scandal, has had to answer for 2011 comments he made about black students lacking role models and faced scrutiny for comparing the struggles for equality of LGBTQ people to those of African Americans.

While Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown has endorsed Buttigieg, Mayor Pete’s campaign has been criticized for misrepresenting the amount of support from black leaders for his Frederick Douglass plan, and the mayor was called out during the last debate for his team’s use of a stock photo of a Kenyan woman to illustrate the platform, which aims to battle inequities for African Americans.

In contrast to Buttigieg’s desperate exaggerations, former Vice President Joe Biden has collected the most endorsements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, with a total of nine, and has also garnered several other high-profile endorsements from African Americans, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, following California Sen. Kamala Harris’ departure from the race Richland County Council Chair Bernice Scott and her "Reckoning Crew," a group of 100 predominately black female activists in South Carolina, endorsed Biden and his senior adviser Symone Sanders, who previously worked on Sanders’ campaign in 2016.

Buttigieg’s African American problem was further driven home a couple of days ago by the stark numbers coming out of a Washington Post/Ipsos poll: While 48% of black voters polled backed Joe Biden, only 2% of black Democratic-leaning voters backed the former South Bend Mayor.

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