Pete Buttigieg says family ties spurred his move to Michigan

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Grand Rapids — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday the family connections of his husband, Chasten, helped inspire their decision to officially become Michiganians.

Buttigieg, who first found the national political spotlight as South Bend's mayor in Indiana, has moved to Traverse City, Chasten's hometown. Buttigieg plans to register to vote there before the midterm election this fall, a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson revealed last week.

"When I married Chasten, I married into Michigan at some level to begin with," Buttigieg said Monday. "But it was really the arrival of our children that cemented our relationship to Traverse City."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with Jeff Cranson of the Michigan Department of Transportation and Zach Kolodin, the state's chief infrastructure officer, during an event in Grand Rapids on Monday, July 11, 2022.

Buttigieg, a prominent member of President Joe Biden's administration, made the comments during a news conference at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.

He and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a fellow Democrat, were touting an $8.7 million grant to install passenger boarding bridges at the airport. 

Pete and Chasten Buttigieg adopted twins last August. The couple has relied on help from Chasten's parents, who reside in Michigan, the transportation secretary said.

However, the move has prompted speculation that Pete Buttigieg, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, could one day campaign for political office in Michigan.

Asked about that possibility, he replied, "I’ve got more than enough to keep all of my energies occupied with the work of the Transportation Department."

Nessel welcomed Buttigieg to Michigan on Monday.

"You could not have picked a better state in the union to become a resident of," Nessel said. "I certainly hope that you like college football.”

Buttigieg, who was a two-term mayor of South Bend, where Notre Dame is located, replied that he was delighted to call Michigan home, but "college football loyalties might be where I have to draw the line."

National Republicans criticized Buttigieg's stop in Grand Rapids on Monday.

"Pete Buttigieg has proven himself incapable of solving America’s supply chain crisis," said Preya Samsundar, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. "Why is he grandstanding in Grand Rapids with Dana Nessel?"

Last year's bipartisan infrastructure law included $968.6 million to be allocated to 85 airports across the country.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appear at a press conference at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport on Monday, July 11, 2022.

Michigan airports will receive about $61.8 million of the total. In Grand Rapids, the money will lead to improvements to help travelers more comfortably walk to their planes, Buttigieg said.

More:Michigan airports to receive $61.8 million from feds for improvements

"Everybody has their airport horror story," the secretary said. "It’s almost the ritual in American conversation. But we’re making sure that people are going to be proud of their airport experiences across America."

As part of the new program, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport will receive $49.6 million for projects to make bathrooms more accessible and energy efficient, replace old baggage claim belts and upgrade passenger boarding bridges.

Staff Writer Riley Beggin contributed.