Leading up to the 2020 election, South Carolina Lede is keeping you up to speed on what the candidates are saying on the campaign trail in the Palmetto State with these "Trail Bites" mini-episodes.
On this edition for the week of May 9, 2019, host Gavin Jackson interviews Democratic presidential hopeful South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
You can read the full transcript of this interview below.
Full remarks from candidates who visit South Carolina during the campaign on the SCETV YouTube page.
Transcript of Gavin Jackson's Interview with Pete Buttigieg
Welcome to Trail Bites for the week of May 9, 2019. I’m Gavin Jackson. This mini pod is a companion piece to the South Carolina Lede and we’re doing this to help keep you up to speed on what candidates are saying on the 2020 campaign trail in the Palmetto State and also what South Carolinians like you are thinking.
Over the past week Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg visited the state for the first time since announcing their candidacies. This episode however will focus on Buttigieg who reached out directly to the podcast and spoke with me for about 15 minutes after his North Charleston rally on May 5, 2019.
We’ll air Biden’s bite next week.
So here’s an edited version of that conversation.
Q: I want to talk to you about education and what your plan would be to attract and retain more teachers to the profession?
PB: You know the actions here in South Carolina particularly the teachers rising up to insist on better. This was something that had ripple effects across the country. And I think it's important for teachers to know that they're not alone and to have a president who will show ways of supporting them and also who will commit to having a leadership in the Department of Education that actually supports public education.
Q: Did it surprise you to see that our governor and superintendent of education, who are both republicans, were against teachers leaving the classroom? Do you think teachers should’ve left the classroom?
PB: You know one thing that certainly has been demonstrated a couple of times in Indiana is it's not a great idea to be on the wrong side of teachers because teachers play such an important role because parents and communities have a lot of trust for teachers despite the fact that they're not getting the respect or the pay that they deserve from their governments. So you know a little bit surprised to see any governor being dismissive of teachers and especially in a state like South Carolina that has a lot of work to do on educational attainment and it needs to put the resources to kids that could actually drive improvements there. I do think it's so important for any elected leader at any level to demonstrate their level of support not just for teaching but for public education as a whole. And you can't get something for nothing the disinvestment is very directly connected to results being inadequate in many schools in a district.
Q: Sen. Kamala Harris’ education proposal does focus on increasing teacher pay, but she also wants to create incentives for historically black colleges and universities to attract more black students to get involved in teaching especially black males who can be such a role model to students who might not have one.
PB: You know there's a lot of wisdom in that because teachers play such an important moral and foundational role for people so you know to make sure that especially when we're talking about young black boys seeing leadership of course you want them to have relationships with teachers of diverse backgrounds but in particular having more African-American male teachers could do a lot of good. You know I think that's it’s one of many reasons why we should be supporting HBCUs and we'll be talking about that quite a bit. But again you know as somebody who's run a pretty sizable organization on the city side you know any recruiting goals you have including diversity recruiting goals get a lot easier if you're just willing to put up the compensation and the resources to make the position attractive to more applicants.
Q: The crowd was about 600 people tonight and only about a handful were black, whereas North Charleston is roughly 50% black population. The Democratic Party in South Carolina is also made up of 60% of black voters. Was it disconcerting to see that crowd makeup tonight and what do you have to do to get your message to key black voters?
PB: You know it's very important to me not only in order to win but in order to deserve to win that we are drawing a diverse base of support. And you know what we saw tonight I think is a lot of voters who were attracted to our message who have found their way to us.
We're going to ask the question, "OK, who are the people who will only hear from me if I find my way to them?" And we're building and soon going to be announcing a campaign team that will help with that work.
We're developing a campaign staff that reflects the diversity of our of our party as well as my very diverse generation.
But we also need to extend this beyond the individuals in paid positions on our campaign to the volunteers and supporters and voters who you see as we go. So you know it shows that we've got a lot of work to do.
I welcome the challenge. I understand the challenge is somebody who is neither a candidate of color nor somebody who has been known for decades that I have to go an extra mile in order to make sure that the black voters and other diverse voters in this state knows what our message is to them. And I know how important it is for us that they be included in the campaign.
Q: Switching gears to the Democratic primary field, former Vice President Joe Biden has just jumped into the race, how does his presence affect it?
PB: You know I think the more candidates are in the race the more it makes sense for each of us to just run our own game plan. I don't view myself as competing against anyone or even any three or five other Democrats there are so many different voices.
We've been able to cut through the field and cut through some of the clutter with our unique voice and message. That's that's the game plan we're going to continue building out as we go.
Q; At a fundraiser held in Columbia after his rally it’s reported that Biden said his nickname for Trump is clown, do you think he should be using nicknames in this race, do you agree with that characterization?
PB: Obviously I have a pretty dim view of this presidency. But I'd also say that the less we're talking about him the better because voters want to hear us talking about them. And the biggest reason why this presidency needs to go is actually not the many deficiencies of the president, it's the damage being done to Americans in our everyday lives. The failure to raise wages, the assault on our health care, the divisions that are being placed between us and other fellow Americans even when we have common interests and for all of those reasons and more we've got to help people envision the world as it's going to be when this president comes and goes. And just jumping into playing his game will not be enough.
Q: So when the president starts attacking you directly how do you handle that?
PB: I'm pretty well practiced in dealing with bullies. I'm not going to be distracted from the message that you know we'll certainly confront him when he does something wrong or says something false. But at the end of the day this campaign isn't about him. It's about the voters whose lives in many ways depend on the decisions that will be made by the next president.
Q: Do you think it’s a sad state of affairs when people are still attacking people over gender, sex, sexual identity, is it becoming more prevalent because of president trump?
PB: Well there's no question that we're living in a time when a lot of different forms of exclusion and hate are on the rise. And to me that's just one more reason why we all need to be standing up for each other even if each of us has a different experience so many vulnerable and marginalized communities are worse off under this White House that we all have to mobilize together no matter how different our stories are in order to bring about a change.
Q: There is a minimum age to run for president, do you think there should be a maximum age?
PB: No I'm not going to speak to anybody else's readiness or fitness for the job, at least not within my party. I think there are a lot of great candidates with different strengths and virtues and we're going to compete based on our own.
Q: Where do you see the country in 2019, how do you unite the country?
I'm very worried about the divisions that have come among Americans largely stoked by the current White House President. And part of this can be addressed through our politics even the conduct of our campaigns.
Part of it needs to be addressed in policy. It's one of the reasons why I think things like national service are a good idea that could help us to form more connections among very different kinds of Americans as was my experience in the military.
And I think you know I think that the kind of trust that I learned to develop with other people when I was deployed. But I also think you should not go to war to have that experience. And I think more service your opportunities for Americans can help. It helped deliver me the high sign from my colleagues that we've got to we've got to wrap it up any better.
Q: I just wanted to see if you’ve spoken with Congressman Jim Clyburn recently and if so what have y’all talked about.
PB: Yes we've been in touch with him.
He's been helpful in directing us to resources and also just explaining some of the issues from education to income that are on people's minds in the state.
And obviously a leader that I have enormous respect for.