A New Jersey Mayor Emeritus’ Case for Buttigieg

Jennifer Holdsworth with Pete Buttigieg.

The 2020 Democratic field has been replete with mayors: Cory Booker of Newark, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, and more recently Michael Bloomberg of New York City.  Closer to home for New Jerseyans, John Birkner, Mayor Emeritus of Westwood, said that of the options available now, “I endorse Pete Buttigieg as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America.”

Birkner said that, “With Iowa and New Hampshire now in the rearview mirror, the campaign for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States can truly begin in earnest.”

Birkner praised New Jersey’s former candidate, Senator Cory Booker, who he described as a “friend” as well as Kamala Harris.  “I would like to see a woman in the White House,” he said, “and I believe that Senator Harris would be a great choice as Vice-President for the eventual nominee.”

“Perhaps it’s a ‘mayor thing’ so it is no surprise that I supported Senator Booker throughout his career and Presidential campaign,” Birkner said, seemingly as an affirmation of his New Jersey-based allegiance.  “I like a lot of what former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg brings to the table, but the one candidate that I believe can win in November and return our democracy to its status as a beacon of light is Mayor Pete Buttigieg.”

“Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the leader we can all stand behind,” Birkner said, further adding that mayors have a “more acute understanding” of their constituents than any other elected position.  “Mayor Pete’s service in the United States Marine Corps, and his personal courage, keen intellect and ability to calmly and thoroughly respond to criticism make him uniquely qualified to stand up to, and unseat Donald Trump.”

Buttigieg served as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve between 2009 and 2017 as an intelligence officer, not as a Marine.  He carried out a seven month deployment in Afghanistan in 2014.

“The time is now for Democats to stand together, join together, and vote together to elect a President that can heal the damage to our standing with our world allies, to our environment, and our strength as a world leader in civil rights and the rule of law,” Birkner said.

Birkner described his fellow municipal chief as one who is, “Bright, articulate, compassionate, courageous, empathetic, and a realist.”  He said that the other Democrats have these qualities “in one way or another” but only Buttigieg “puts them all in one package that is uplifting and inspiring.”

Birkner’s endorsement comes as New Jersey’s political establishment struggles to find its way given the collapse of Cory Booker’s presidential campaign, and subsequent shift to senatorial re-election.  Split between progressive hardliners backing self-described “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders and mainstream machine candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, many in the Garden State Democratic leadership have shied away from the tempestuous waters which no longer serve a direct interest and might only polarize the field further.

In November, New Jersey’s Booker was passed up handily by the Indiana mayor, and Buttigieg has held on while the myriad Democrat candidates have fallen off like so many autumnal leaves.  For those voters looking for military experience, the choice was only Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard, herself now bogged down in a non-shooting war with Hillary Clinton.

Buttigieg is no stranger to New Jersey, either, and Birkner’s endorsement does not come as a unique one.  In December, Buttigieg came to Saddle River.  In September, he gained the endorsement from yet another mayor, Joseph Signorello of Roselle Park.  Some prominent New Jersey donors to his campaign include Christian Fuscarino, the head of Garden State Equality, former NJ Dem Chairman Tom Byrne, and NJ State Committee counsel Raj Parikh.  Still-another-mayor, Steve Fulop, went to Twitter back in March of last year to announce that he had made a donation to his South Bend colleague’s endeavors for the nation’s highest office.

In terms of political optics, Buttigieg has more dark hair than white, a stark contrast between late septuagenarians Bernie Sanders, 78, and Joe Biden, 77.  Either of these men would set the record for oldest president to take office, a record presently held by Donald Trump who, at 70, surpassed Ronald Reagan who first took office at a spry 69.  At the age of 38, Buttigieg could be the youngest president ever to serve by a significant margin.  John F. Kennedy took the oath of office at 43.  Theodore Roosevelt became acting-president following the assassination of William McKinley at the age of 42.  Additionally, fueling credibility among younger voters, Buttigieg is openly gay and married and is the least-wealthy presidential candidate (he reportedly still owe student loans).

It remains to be seen if Buttigieg’s campaign in the Garden State will be able to make significant headways, especially when support remains fractured.  Jennifer Holdsworth (pictured, above, with the candidate) is onboard with Buttigieg while Biden’s ship seems to be running out of steam.  With no “safe” candidate, the Democrats can expect a continuation of patchwork politics until a nominee is chosen.  Paterson’s Andre Sayegh, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, and Congressman Josh Gottheimer have come out in support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the only candidate whose wealth vastly dwarfs Trump’s and who was broiled by Elizabeth Warren over women’s issues.  Bloomberg has veteran operatives Mike Muller, Ray Ferraoli, and Axel Owen running his state operation. Sanders has Analilia Mejia on board as his political director.  He is the present front-runner for the nomination with a strong progressive base in the state.  Notable backers for Sanders include Larry Hamm, Barry Brendel, and Patricia Campos Medina, who are co-chairing his state campaign.

In politics, anything can happen, and despite the rough going that lays ahead, Buttigieg does not appear to be walking quietly into the night any time soon.

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One response to “A New Jersey Mayor Emeritus’ Case for Buttigieg”

  1. I agree – Thank you John Birkner – Pete’s balance, brilliance, decency – his ability to learn as he governs – to listen and grow – his capacity to synthesize complex and contradictory realities – his language skills – his steady voice and center of gravity all point to his being our best hope for a true American reality we can all feel good about. And trust!!

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