ORLANDO, Fla. — South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for President, was in Orlando for a series of events to help build support and campaign funding on Wednesday.
- Buttigieg scheduled to hold private event with Puerto Rican community
- Leads with more than $24.8 million raised as of mid-July
- Buttigieg has already qualified for third debate
- More Decision 2020 Coverage
Attorney John Morgan hosted Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year for a fundraiser.
While Buttigieg trails in the numerous polls, he is leading the crowded field of candidates in fundraising.
Buttigieg held a series of events, including a private listening session with members of Orlando's Puerto Rican community, who were displaced from their homes after Hurricane Maria.
The efforts are part of his bid to grow donors and support, especially from crucial minority voters, where Buttigieg has been trailing.
“The really distinctive thing is, especially from a Florida perspective, is that no group of voters is monolithic,” Buttigieg said. “The concern of Venezuelans I meet here are distinct from Puerto Ricans, and they are distinct from more Mexican-centered Latinos, or Cubans."
He added, "So we really need to meet people where they are, speak to their specific issues impacting different communities, but also speak to the biggest values that unite us."
Buttigieg’s marquee event in Orlando was a grassroots rally in front of a crowd of several hundred supporters at The Plaza Live. He was joined by Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.
Calls for Gun Reform
Buttigieg has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, saying it is time for gun reform to happen.
"You begin with the fact that America wants to get this done," Buttigieg said on Tuesday. "How much longer can something go against the will of the American people before we have a break through.
He continued, "That is why my plan focuses on political action, policy action, and civic action. Right now it doesn't seem like there is a penalty to be paid -- for example, for Mitch McConnell's decision to prevent the universal background check legislation that passed the house."
Gun reform has become a renewed focal point in America, following last weekend’s pair of mass shootings that killed 31 people.
“We know we need universal background checks, we know we need red flag laws, we know we need to do something about assault weapons and high magazines,” Buttigieg said Wednesday night. “We’ve already decided within the boundaries of the constitution that in the name of safety of the American people, we’re going to draw a line, and all we’re saying is we have to draw that line tighter in order to secure our neighborhoods and our kids.”
Buttigieg is among those who have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call a vote on two House bills that would expand gun laws to extend background check waiting periods from three days to 10, and close the so-called “Charleston Loophole” by putting restrictions in place on private transfers of firearms.
Winning 2020 Election
While outlining his plan on other issues including climate change, healthcare, and support for Puerto Rico statehood, Buttigieg was also not shy about President Trump.
“I’m worried that this president could win again,” Buttigieg said. “He is deservedly unpopular, but here’s how I think he could win again -- I think he wins again if we look like our message is, we’re going back to normal, everything is exhausting and chaotic, it’s a tempting message, but normal didn’t work either. That’s how we got here.”
Buttigieg has long criticized the president for stirring conflict by creating hate and division.
“What this president has unleashed on this country, I don’t care what party you belong to, this is wrong, racism is wrong, white supremacy is wrong, it’s inspiring terrorist attacks on Americans,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg ended his day in Orlando with a private high-dollar fundraiser.
A flyer for the private fundraiser shows entrance into the event will start at $1,000 per person, but meet-and-greet opportunities provided to those who provide $2,800.
Buttigieg is making strides in trying to stand out from a crowded field of at least 20 democrat presidential hopefuls.
He leads the pack with more than $24.8 million raised as of mid-July, standing ahead of:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden ($21.5 million)
- Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren ($19.1 million)
- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ($18 million)
- California Senator Kamala Harris ($12 million)
Buttigieg is among eight candidates to already qualify for next month's third round of debates.
The next set of two-night debates is set for September 12-13 in Houston, Texas.
Candidates need at least 130,000 unique donors and at least 2 percent of support in four separate polls to qualify to participate in that debate.