ATLANTA – South Bend, Ind. mayor Pete Buttigieg unexpectedly announced his withdrawal from the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, minutes after he had been formally nominated as a candidate and members were scheduled to vote. The hall full of DNC members and the filing room next door for the press listened in stunned silence as Buttigieg, sometimes showing a little emotion, announced his decision. “We saw the potential of doing well on multiple ballots but we can do the math,” he said. “It is time for this process to move toward a solution that we can all get on board with.” He also urged Democrats to address the party’s woes with rural voters, saying, “Pay attention to communities like ours in the heart of the country, not as an exotic species but as fellow Americans.”
Buttigieg had emerged as the potential dark horse candidate in the race who might have won as an alternative to frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison. In the final days and weeks leading up to the election, he racked up a series of high profile endorsements, including from five former DNC chairs and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). He declined to endorse any of the other candidates in his speech. His decision to drop out means that it is likely Perez or Ellison have the votes to win the chairmanship in the first or second round of voting.
The Perez campaign released a statement following Buttigieg’s announcement, saying “Pete Buttigieg is the future of our party. It is clear to all of us who have gotten to know Pete through this process that he is immensely talented and has a bright future in this party.”
UPDATE: I spoke with Dan Parker, the former chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party and an adviser to Buttigieg’s campaign.
“His speech speaks for itself. I thought he was the best candidate for the short time he was in the race and ran the best campaign. But sometimes the best candidate doesn’t win.”
Asked if the math wasn’t there, Parker responded, “Our theory was there, but this process needs to come to a close. The party needs a chair and it did not need a multi-ballot.”