The longest-serving African American man on the South Bend, Ind., Common Council is endorsing Joe Biden for president, a rejection of Pete Buttigieg that highlights the South Bend mayor’s struggle with black voters.
Council Vice President Oliver Davis told POLITICO that while it’s nice to see someone representing Indiana in the Democratic presidential primary and bringing national attention to South Bend, Biden is more experienced.
“When you’re flying in the middle of a storm, you want to make sure you have steady, experienced leadership,” Davis said. “I believe that Vice President Biden has demonstrated throughout the years by having a steady hand, he can help lead us through these times, and with all of the challenges we face nationally and now even internationally, he has the relationships, has the skills, and I think he can bring us together in different ways.”
But Davis also scolded Buttigieg, saying the mayor’s woes attracting support from communities of color “is not a new problem for him.”
“For us, this has been a consistent issue that has not gone away,” Davis said.
Asked if Buttigieg could win a general election, given his current low levels of support from people of color in the Democratic presidential primary, Davis said: “I doubt it. I sincerely doubt it.”
In addition to Biden’s strong support from African Americans in current Democratic primary polls, Davis also said that Biden “has an understanding of the Midwest,” having been on the Democratic ticket in 2008 when Barack Obama turned Indiana blue, a result he believes Biden can repeat in 2020.
“What he’s doing nationally, it’s not a fluke. It’s real,” Davis said, alluding to Biden’s double-digit lead in national primary polls. “His numbers are real throughout the country because people know him.”
Davis insisted his comment that Biden’s numbers are “not a fluke” wasn’t a jab at Buttigieg, who surged to first in Iowa’s flagship poll recently but hasn’t yet proven whether he has staying power in the national nominating contest or in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
But Davis’ praise for Biden’s decades-long record was a contrast to Buttigieg’s thin resume. Davis said there were some people in South Bend who wanted Buttigieg to stay there or run statewide to build up his credentials and run for president in four or eight years. Buttigieg, however, will end his run as mayor early next year.
Davis ran for mayor of South Bend this year, but he lost in a crowded primary to Buttigieg-backed James Mueller, who is now mayor-elect of South Bend.
Davis said he watched Wednesday’s Democratic debate expecting Buttigieg to face a lot more tough questions than he did. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard questioned his qualifications to be commander in chief, and African American Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey stressed the importance of Democrats choosing a nominee who can appeal to black voters.
But Buttigieg, who is polling at 0 percent with black voters in Quinnipiac’s latest South Carolina survey, didn’t have to answer for some of his campaign’s recent racial miscues, such as the revelation that some black South Carolina leaders were surprised to see themselves named as supporters of Buttigieg and his Douglass Plan for black America.
“It’s very difficult and very frustrating to talk about a Douglass Plan when he did not perform that while he was the mayor here in town. A Douglass Plan should’ve been implemented in South Bend, Indiana,” Davis said. “He should’ve run on that in the 2011 or at least 2015 campaign, run on it, had success with it, shared it with Indiana, run nationally. I would’ve been the first one to champion that. But to see that he champions it across the country when it wasn’t practiced here has brought me great concern.”
Davis said Buttigieg was missing in action during his failed 2010 run for state treasurer, when Davis and other local leaders were fighting for LGBT rights. And Davis said he has tried to give Buttigieg advice — to no avail — on issues ranging from body cameras for the police department to improving minority contracting to not holding an event on a Sunday at noon because many residents, particularly African Americans, are still in church at that time.
“If he had followed our advice and had worked with a diverse team of leadership with the police department, with the fire department, with the purchasing, with those kind of things that we have officially written to him … if he had done that with the skills and talent he has already put together, who would be able to beat him?” Davis asked. “That’s the frustration where I stand on that.”
The post Black South Bend leader endorses Biden, rebukes Buttigieg appeared first on Politico.