Buttigieg’s LGBT donors help defy expectations

Sara Burnett
Associated Press
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Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he’s using donations to double his 20-person staff.

Greenville, South Carolina – Jonah Burrell first contributed to Pete Buttigieg’s campaign after watching the first prominent openly gay presidential candidate on television. When Burrell later saw him in person in a cramped upstate South Carolina auditorium, he knew he had to do it again.

“I felt compelled to help,” Burrell, a nursing student who is gay, said after the event. “It makes me proud he’s a gay man.”

Financial support from the LGBT community has helped Buttigieg defy expectations by raking in more than $7 million in just over two months. The money has come from grassroots supporters like Burrell and big-dollar Hollywood donors who hope Buttigieg will make history – or at least the summer debate stage.

The Buttigieg appeal was on display again this weekend when the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and his husband separately headlined galas for two of the country’s largest LGBT organizations.

And the early haul shows no sign of slowing. Victory Fund, which invested $2 million in LGBT candidates in 2018, expects to endorse Buttigieg shortly after he formally joins the race, President and CEO Annise Parker said.

The board that makes endorsements – made up of 100 “bundlers,” or people who commit to raising $5,000 annually for candidates – has been “champing at the bit” to endorse him, she said. Once they do, the group will appeal to its donor network to directly support Buttigieg’s campaign and promote his events.

Of the candidates who’ve released their first-quarter fundraising totals, Buttigieg outraised New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who each brought in over $5 million, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Other candidates exceeded his total, including California Sen. Kamala Harris ($12 million) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (more than $18 million). But they are better-known, with well-established donor networks that in some cases date back many years.

Buttigieg says he’s using the money to double his roughly 20-person staff and build teams in early-voting states likes Iowa and New Hampshire.

While his upstart campaign benefited from the gay community’s support, he didn’t rely on it. Buttigieg says he received donations from nearly 160,000 people between late January and March 31. About 65% of contributions were less than $200, with an average donation of about $36.

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