CLAREMONT — Sunday was not a typical day for the Claremont Visitors Center. As the parking lot began to fill with the aroma of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, a bright blue and yellow bus made its way through the city to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd of 55 people waiting to hear from Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, 37, held a number of events across the Granite State between Friday, Nov. 8 and Monday, Nov. 11, including town halls in Berlin, Lebanon and Salem. In addition to the canvass kickoff in Claremont, the Pete For America campaign also participated in a walking tour of downtown Littleton and a town hall in Walpole on Sunday.
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., introduced the youngest president in history if he is elected to the platform, and emphasized that she has not yet made an endorsement of any candidate for president.
The presidential contender began his speech by expressing his positive outlook on the race thus far and the race ahead.
“I have never been more convinced — based on the faces, the conversations and the data — I have never been more convinced that we are going to win New Hampshire, win the nomination, and win the presidency with your help,” Buttigieg said. “And I know that you are armed with the facts and the values that decide this campaign.”
Reflecting on the harsh divisions that the country has developed — not just on political lines, but also economically, racially and religiously — Buttigieg offered some comforting sentiments of togetherness.
“[We are] bringing Americans together around values like freedom, democracy and security,” the candidate said. “It is so important that we lay the groundwork for a presidency bold enough to get the job done, to deal with these issues that are not taking a vacation… and to do it in a way that’s actually going to have us more unified, not more polarized in this country. We are building community as we speak, long before the first vote is even cast.”
In his closing remarks, the Harvard University graduate thanked his supporters and canvassers for the work they have done in New Hampshire.
“You reflect the kind of White House and the kind of country and the kind of administration I am going to build,” he said. “You know, they say they judge you by the company you keep. Well, I am very pleased to be judged by you all and the values you express.”
Following his kickoff speech, Buttigieg spent the remainder of his time in the city getting to meet with residents of both New Hampshire and Vermont — some of whom were not even old enough to vote yet — to sign books, give hugs and answer specific questions.
One canvasser in attendance asked Buttigieg what his plan was to eliminate student debt in the United States of America.
“[Eliminating all of student debt] sends a really strange message to people who just finished paying off, and for people who are about to take on debt now,” Buttigieg said. “Now, there is one exception I would say which is the for-profit colleges… If we’re gonna wipe it out anywhere, I would start there.”
Another question from a local resident directed at the Rhodes Scholar pertained to foreign policy and the ongoing trade wars with other countries.
“The trade war creates a lot of uncertainty for farmers in different areas,” he said. “Definitely, where I live, we are seeing in on blueberries. And we are seeing it in a lot of areas in New England.”
In addition to illustrating the current effects of tariffs on the U.S. farming industry, the presidential hopeful also presented some ways that farming in general can be transformed to help the environment.
“Another thing is we should be funding sustainable farming with more federal dollars,” Buttigieg said. “Right now, we are using dollars to take the edge off the consequences of the China trade war, which this president created. We could be using those same dollars to create funding to help with different types of soil management in different climates.”
Toward the end of the event, Buttigieg was joined by his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, to meet with Charles Denton, of Hillsborough, and his three dogs, Seren, Bryn and Ffanci, which turned into a media frenzy when the dogs posed with the candidate.
First-time canvassers from Springfield, Vermont, Mark and Patrick Johnson-Hedges were overwhelmed with emotion to hear from Pete Buttigieg.
“We love Pete to pieces,” Mark said. “I still am a Bernie supporter. He is my senator, he is our senator. But… it’s a big but. He is not Pete.”
In talking about himself and his partner, Patrick, who served in the Navy for six years stationed in Kingsbury, Georgia, Mark said that Pete and Chasten “are our voice.”
“[Chasten] and Pete are our voice. The people that have been kind of lost in the United States, those who have been forgotten,” Mark said. “Growing up in Vermont, a very rural area, it was very hard being a homosexual kid growing up. Pete has broke the glass ceiling.”
Mark continued: “We’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly in our lives, and not to put too negative spin on it, but it has been more ugly than not. And Pete has changed all of that. He has changed all of that,” Mark said. “I never thought that we would ever have a gay potential president of the United States. It just makes me want to cry.”