Buttigieg in Chicago for fundraisers; gains support from major Obama donors

WASHINGTON – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg headlines fundraisers in Chicago and Evanston on Tuesday, with his surging — for now —  Democratic presidential campaign landing influential Obama donors.

Buttigieg returns to Chicago on May 16 for more fundraising, with his candidacy grabbing attention because he is a bundle of many things to Democrats searching for the strongest contender to defeat President Donald Trump:

At 37, Buttigieg is the youngest running; he is openly gay; he was a Navy officer; he is a Harvard grad; he speaks multiple languages; he is not from the East or West coasts; and he is an outsider. He is also getting an incredible amount of flattering media coverage.

Buttigieg is no stranger to Chicago — he was an NBC 5 Chicago intern in 2003. He was in Chicago for a fundraiser in mid-March when he was still exploring a presidential bid and was a headliner for the Equality Illinois gala in February.

Buttigieg will be in Chicago for the first time since he declared his 2020 White House bid on April 14, arriving in the week former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to announce his presidential run.

Buttigieg’s campaign is headquartered in South Bend with its first satellite office in the Loop, currently in temporary workspace.

John Atkinson, a Chicago business executive and Democratic activist who was one of former President Barack Obama’s big fundraisers, is — with his wife Bonnie — one of the co-hosts  for Buttigieg’s Tuesday event in Lincoln Park.

I wrote in a March 17 column about how some of Obama’s major donors were helping the campaigns of several Democrats, investing in them to see who may surface as the strongest.

Things have changed. Some of them are now going with Buttigieg.

“My intent early on was to be supportive of a couple of people,” Atkinson told me Sunday.

Now, “I am committed to Pete Buttigieg,” Atkinson said. He agreed to join Buttigieg’s top national donor group, called the Investors Circle.

Why Mayor Pete? “He is an industrial heartland mayor who has been elected by many of the people who have supported Trump.” And while a progressive, he is able to articulate issues in a way he can gain “broad support,” Atkinson said.

According to invitations obtained by the Sun-Times, other co-hosts include Andy Schapiro, Obama’s ambassador to the Czech Republic and his wife, Tamar Newberger; Adam Hitchcock, who served in the Obama White House; and Amalia Mahoney and her husband, William, a fundraiser for Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The Evanston event later on is hosted by Democratic activists and donors Eric Janssen and Marco Zerega, according to an invitation.

Chicagoans David Jacobson was Obama’s first ambassador to Canada; Bruce Heyman was his second. Both were in Obama’s elite fundraising ranks.

Jacobson in my March column was helping several Democratic contenders.

Now, “I have decided I will support Mayor Pete; at least for the moment he is the only one I am supporting,” Jacobson told the Sun-Times. Jacobson, with Penny Pritzker, helmed Obama’s 2008 national finance committee. Jacobson will co-host a May 16 fundraiser in Chicago for Buttigieg.

Earlier this year, Jacobson was not really looking at Buttigieg because vaulting from the City Hall in South Bend to the White House was quite a leap.

“A moment that caused me to take Pete Buttigieg seriously as a candidate for the presidency of the United States was his CNN Town Hall. It wasn’t good. It was great,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said “a number” of the “Obama people” have committed to Buttigieg as his campaign continues to accelerate at a rate unmatched by his rivals.

“The more I saw of him, the more I liked him,” Jacobson said.

Heyman, who co-authored with wife Vicki, “The Art of Diplomacy Strengthening the Canada-U.S. Relationship in Times of Uncertainty,” out on April 30, told the Sun-Times that in Chicago, “there is growing interest in Mayor Pete.”

There are major donors who are waiting for Biden. “Today, endorsements do not mean exclusivity,” he said.

Said Heyman, “everybody is so passionate about beating Donald Trump, we are all trying to find the right candidate.”

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