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Buttigieg hits Chicago for fundraising, to talk about racism in the U.S.

When Buttigieg met with Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July, “Mostly I just wanted to see how she was doing and then also to learn from her experience; (Lightfoot is) obviously somebody who has been very much in the middle of some of these questions about race and community and policing that have been very much on my mind.”

2020 Democratic presidential hopeful and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign event at the Smokey Row coffee shop in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Aug. 15. He will be fundraising in Chicago on Tuesday.
Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg — who twice lived in Chicago — returns to the city Tuesday for fundraising and to talk about, at a South Side event, his plans to deal with racism in the United States.

Highlights from my phone interview with Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor, on Monday afternoon:


When Buttigieg was a student at Harvard, he spent a summer interning at NBC5 for now retired journalist Renee Ferguson.

Speaking at his formal campaign kick-off rally April 14 in South Bend, Ferguson called him her “other son,” telling the story about how Buttigieg showed up for his internship without a place to stay, so he ended up living in the family room in her Hyde Park/Kenwood home.

Later — after Harvard and the University of Oxford — Buttigieg moved back to Chicago in 2007, where he was a consultant for McKinsey & Company, renting a condo at 8 W. Monroe.

Buttigieg told me his go-to restaurant was Miller’s Pub because it was close, and when friends visited he would take them to Billy Goat Tavern for a burger.

In his free time he would stroll around Millennium Park or head to bookstores in Hyde Park.

“When I was little we always used to drive in and shop at Powell’s or 57th Street Books. My dad would spend hours there so when I’d have enough time I would go down and I could easily lose an afternoon at Powell’s.”


Democratic presidential contenders are wooing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in office since May 20. She’s in no rush to endorse. The March Illinois primary comes early enough to potentially have an impact in minting the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

Buttigieg and Lightfoot, both openly gay, saw each other at an Equality Illinois gala February in Chicago — with a one-on-one meeting in July when Buttigieg was in Chicago for a fundraiser. Lightfoot met Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, when they were both in New York for a June 17 Democratic National Committee fundraiser targeting gay donors.

“Mostly I just wanted to see how she was doing and then also to learn from her experience; (Lightfoot is) obviously somebody who has been very much in the middle of some of these questions about race and community and policing that have been very much on my mind,” Buttigieg told me.

Buttigieg, as he seeks the presidency, is grappling with a lack of diversity in the South Bend Police Department and a shooting earlier this summer involving a black man and a white police officer.


On Tuesday night, Buttigieg headlines a “grassroots” low dollar fundraiser at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. King Drive.

He told me he will use the South Side event to discuss his “Douglass Plan,” named after Frederick Douglass, the ex-slave and abolitionist leader, which is “our effort to tackle systemic racism.

“And what I really want people to hear and be able to weigh in on is our vision for how to make sure that every dimension of life that is different for black Americans gets attention from us on how to repair these inequities.”

He added, “Too often I think the dialogue effectively reduces the black experience to encounters with criminal justice. While we have very bold plans on reducing mass incarceration by half in this country, I also want to talk about our initiatives on increasing the number of black entrepreneurs and lifting up black economic empowerment in this country. In addition to working in areas like health, homeownership and education that need attention.”

City Clerk Anna Valencia will welcome Buttigieg, who she knows. Valencia told me she is “not endorsing anyone anytime soon.”

Before the South Side event, Buttigieg has a higher-dollar fundraiser at the downtown office of Clayco, the construction company whose chairman and CEO, Bob Clark, is a major supporter of former President Barack Obama. Clark told me he is not endorsing at this time.

The other hosts include John Atkinson, the insurance company executive who is on Buttigieg’s National Investment Committee, the campaign’s term for its top fundraising operation; and Kevin Johnson, a renewable energy executive and West Point grad.


As Trump continues to consider freeing ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich from prison, cutting his 14-year term almost in half, Buttigieg said if president, “I would have other priorities when it comes to clemency power.”