Mayor Pete on lack of minority support: Voters ‘need to get to know me’

Buttigieg said when you’re “new on the scene and you’re not from a community of color, you’ve got to work much harder in order to earn that trust.”

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Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a news conference at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during a news conference Tuesday at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention in Chicago.

AP Photos

With a CNN poll this week showing presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg polling at zero percent among African American people, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor — whose city continues to reel in the aftermath of a police shooting — said Tuesday in Chicago there are a lot of voters “who need to get to know me.”

“There are a lot of voters I need to get to know and who need to get to know me,” Buttigieg said at a joint news conference with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Rainbow PUSH Convention. “They need to understand the details of the ‘Douglass Plan’ that we are continuing to roll out and, frankly, they need to see me in action for a longer period of time.”

A CNN poll released Monday found Buttigieg polling at just 4% after last week’s presidential debate, with zero percent support coming from African American voters. The mayor came in fifth behind Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The South Bend mayor released his plan to boost economic prosperity in black communities last month, which includes reducing the prison population, legalizing marijuana and creating a federal fund to help minority entrepreneurs.

But racial tensions have taken the forefront of his community — and his presidential campaign — since the police shooting took place.

Buttigieg said when you’re “new on the scene and you’re not from a community of color, you’ve got to work much harder in order to earn that trust.”

Before the convention began, Jackson said media reports about the shooting are “missing the bigger picture,” namely that the distrust between police and minority communities comes from decades of policies.

During his 22-minute speech, Buttigieg expressed frustration at the mere question of how he’ll get minority votes. And he called the nation’s struggle with racism — which he said touches schools, health care and housing — “is not only a matter of justice, but a matter of national survival.”

“I have been asked how I am going to earn the black vote in the polls 10 times more often than I am asked how my policies would actually benefit black Americans,” Buttigieg said. “It’s as if I’m being asked more about how to win, than how to deserve to win.”

Of the issue of racism in the country, he noted it’s not just a political problem or a police problem. “It is not just my problem or my city’s problem, and it is certainly not just a black problem,” Buttigieg said. “This is an American problem, and it requires nationwide American solutions.”

On Monday — the same day the Fraternal Order of Police asked Buttigieg to recuse himself from the police shooting investigation — Buttigieg asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the shooting.

Eric Logan was fatally shot June 16 in a downtown South Bend parking lot. The sergeant did not turn on his body camera.

Buttigieg on Tuesday told reporters he has been “careful not to weigh in on the incident while the investigation is going on.” He said a recusal isn’t needed because he does not decide on disciplinary actions involving police officers.

“One of the things I really need to continue to convey to our police officers is that it is not anti-police to be pro-racial justice,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said he requested the DOJ investigation because “they may be able to constructively contribute.”

“We know that right now that we can do more as a community around making sure that policies on everything from use of force to body cameras have community input, on enlisting the community to help with recruiting diverse members of the police department, and in looking at training and other questions that we can undertake right now. So while we’re waiting for this incident to get as many looks it needs to get for there to be accountability and justice, we don’t have to wait to take those steps.”

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