SOUTH BEND, Indiana (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Steve Adler endorsed and introduced Mayor Pete Buttigieg at his official presidential campaign launch event Sunday in South Bend, Indiana. Notably, though Adler told KXAN he likes the two 2020 presidential contenders from Texas (Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro), he chose to endorse Buttigieg who he calls a mentor. 

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, launched his exploratory committee for a presidential run a few months ago. In an ever-growing pool of Democratic candidates, he was a relative unknown. However, his profile has been growing fast among the Democratic party.

Buttigieg is 37-years-old, in addition to his work in South Bend he’s a former Rhodes Scholar and an Afghanistan veteran. He aspires to be both the youngest and the first openly gay president of the United States. 

Adler explained in a later interview with KXAN that when he became mayor of Austin in 2015, he sought out Buttigieg’s expertise. The two first interacted through the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

“Pete was at that point already an experienced mayor, even though he was in his early 30’s, he just showed up on the top of everyone’s list as the smartest guy in the room, someone who was doing innovative things but someone that really cared and was really motivated with a desire to make people’s lives better,” Adler told KXAN. 

Adler explained that over the last few years, he became friends with Buttigieg. Adler and his wife, Diane Land, actually attended Buttigieg’s wedding to his husband, Chasten Buttigieg. 

“He’s stayed at my home several times, I’ve learned from him, and certainly, he’s done wonderful things in South Bend,” Adler told KXAN. 

“As a mayor –he is a strong mayor in the city — he is the one that is ultimately responsible for all the employees and all their actions, he’s the one who ultimately makes the decisions at the end of the day when the crisis hits, I just think that is more like being the president than a legislative role where you are voting and giving a lot of speeches,” Adler added. 

At Buttigieg’s campaign launch

Adler was the final guest speaker before Buttigieg himself took the stage. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to introduce someone I know as a mayor and a man, the next president of the United States, Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” Adler said.

“When I was elected Mayor of Austin, Texas — one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the United States — I wanted to do everything I could to do that job the best I could possibly get it done,” he said, explaining why he wound up seeking out Buttigieg’s guidance. 

“He is a mayor’s mayor,” Adler said, making a case for why Buttigieg’s experience in city government would be an asset in the White House. 

“It is local government where government works best,” Adler said. “Cities have to work, when we flip the switch, the power needs to come on.”

“Potholes are neither Republican nor Democrat, they just need to be filled,” Adler continued. 

Adler listed off some of his reasons for supporting Buttigieg. 

 “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president who was genuinely humble, who knows good policy cannot be uncoupled from facts and science?” Adler said. 

Austin’s mayor continued with this train of hypotheticals throughout his speech. 

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president who was of a generation who will actually live with the consequences of the decisions we make today?” he said. 

 “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president like Pete?” Adler asked the crowd. 

What about the Texas candidates? 

In late March, Adler actually welcomed in the crowd ahead of Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign launch rally in Austin. The Texas Tribune reported Adler said at O’Rourke’s rally that Texas was “a state that is finally in play” in the presidential election. 

Adler explained in an interview with KXAN that while he did not endorse O’Rourke at that event, he would be happy to welcome in crowds at rallies for “any of the candidates who come to town, I am the mayor and I like welcoming people to the city.”

Adler also explained to KXAN that he “really likes” both O’Rourke and Castro. 

“They are also friends, and I think really good guys, I just know Pete better and I’ve worked more directly with Pete,” Adler said. “I am also in a pretty unique position as a mayor to have a vantage point on Pete and his performance, and I think I was in a unique position to validate him for the rest of the country and to be in that position for someone as a friend meant that I needed to step forward.”

“For this moment in history, for my community”

Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan was at the campaign launch Sunday and endorses Buttigieg as a presidential candidate. 

Flannigan, who is also an openly gay city leader, explained that Buttigieg’s candidacy means a lot to him personally. 

“I got to admit, I teared up many times, throughout the course of the announcement, especially in those moments where the speaker or Pete himself acknowledged his husband, Chasten,” Flannigan said. “I get chills even bringing it up myself, to know that we are at a place in this country where that is just part of your story, and for me its an important part of the story and it’s something that’s going to represent a new way forward.”

Flannigan made the trip for Indiana to be present,  “for this moment in history, for my community– for the LGBT community — that we have an openly gay man and his husband walking out on the stage together.”

Flannigan has interacted with Buttigieg in Austin for South by Southwest the past two years, some attribute Buttigieg’s time at CNN’s Town Hall at SXSW as the start of his rise popularity as a candidate. 

While Flannigan is backing Buttigieg, he also respects Castro and O’Rourke.

“Beto is great, Julian is great, Julian is also a fomer mayor, they have amazing support and networks in Texas,” Flannigan said. “For me Mayor Pete is a singular candidate, he is a singular person to lead this nation and the fact that he represents my community and that he shows the nation that you can be who you are, you can be authentic, you can love who you want to love and at the same time you can be the smartest guy in the room, you can be artistic, you can be talented — this is the type of person I want to see in the White House.”

Flannigan acknowledged that the primary is the time to “fall in love” with candidates, but he plans to ultimately “fall in line” behind the Democratic nominee. 

You can watch the event here: