SALT LAKE CITY — Pete Buttigieg made his pitch for the Utah Democratic primary with a town hall in Salt Lake City on Presidents Day.
The event was held downtown at the Union Event Center, 235 N. 500 West, following a high number of RSVPs which prompted a change in venue.
Hours before doors opened, a Pete Buttigieg merchandise booth was set up as crowds swelled. Campaign officials stated that they had checked in over 2,000 guests a half-hour before the event began, and Chris Parker, the Union Event Center’s owner, placed the final guest count at over 4,500 people.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall energetically introduced South Bend’s former mayor, surprising both his campaign and spectators with her on-stage endorsement.
Her endorsement is one of several announced by local Utah officials leading up to the event, including Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, and former Mayor Ted Wilson.
Buttigieg entered the stage to a flood of applause and announced, “This is what it looks like to prove that there is no such thing as a permanently red state.”
While discussing recent impeachment proceedings, Buttigieg formally condoned Mitt Romney’s rogue vote for Trump’s conviction, stating that the Utah senator “followed his conscience” rather than his party. He reiterated a campaign catchphrase, “God does not belong to any political party.”
While impeachment may have failed in the Senate, he said, the final verdict would be in the voting booth in 2020, and “future former Republicans” were welcome to join him.
Buttigieg reiterated the importance of earning each vote cast in his favor and welcomed undecided and curious voters multiple times throughout his address.
District Attorney Sim Gill, who also endorsed Buttigieg, read questions from attendees for most of the hour.
Buttigieg’s military service, support from local veterans and discussion of the price of war also frequented the stage alongside messages of unity against division.
This is what it looks like to prove that there is no such thing as a permanently red state
While responding to inquiries, Buttigieg discussed currently-unaffordable drug prices, mental healthcare, and his plan for “Medicare for all who want it.” He also talked about his support for labor unions and diversity, how best to combat climate change, and his belief that marijuana should be legal, though “from a public health perspective,” he said he doesn’t recommend smoking anything.
Buttigieg concluded by asking Utahns to mobilize for Super Tuesday so “Utah sends a message the whole country is gonna hear,” evoking the image of a Salt Lake sunrise that placed Trump’s presidency in the past. The crowd greeted the idea with overwhelming cheers, applause and whistles.