Buttigieg holds hometown rally to formally launch presidential run

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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the unlikely star of the early primary race, is set to formally announce he’s running for president at a rally in his hometown in Indiana on Sunday.

Buttigieg, a 37-year-old small-town mayor with a difficult-to-pronounce last name, unexpectedly raised $7 million in donations in the first quarter, and has surged to third place in recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Buttigieg is also the first openly gay candidate to vie for a major party presidential nomination.

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The rally in South Bend was due to get underway at 2 p.m. ET.

Buttigieg’s campaign said that 64 percent of his total donations came from contributions of $200 or less.

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Buttigieg’s husband Chasten, who has become a breakout Twitter sensation of the 2020 race, tweeted his thanks to donors, writing “Thank you friends, we’re just getting started.” The small-town mayor acknowledged that while other candidates in the field may have outraised him this quarter, his number is a big deal for the “underdog project.”

“We are not part of the national political machine. We started with just about 20,000 people on our email list, and not many people even knew who I was. But as more and more people around the country begin to hear our bold vision for the future, more and more people are investing in this effort,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

Buttigieg has also recently garnered media attention for his feud with Vice President Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana who pursued anti-LGBT policies while he was in office. Buttigieg criticized Pence Friday for his opposition to gay marriage and gay rights, which Pence said is informed by his Christian faith.

“I don’t have a problem with religion, I’m religious too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people,” he said on “Ellen.”

Meanwhile, Pence said Buttigieg was attacking his faith. “I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the president as he seeks the highest office in the land,” Pence said.

Emily Tillett and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report

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