EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Pete Buttigieg discusses importance of South Carolina to his campaign

In an exclusive interview, Buttigieg talked about how he would address education and the state's rural economy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) –South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of the Democratic candidates running for President, is increasing his campaign’s presence in the Palmetto State, opening his first campaign office in South Carolina off of Bush River Road in Columbia.

In an exclusive interview with ABC Columbia, Buttigieg spoke about the importance of South Carolina to his campaign and how some issues in the state shaped his stances on some issues. 

“South Carolina is critical on the path to the nomination for us. Among the early states, it’s one of the most diverse and I think a lot of people in some of the bigger states down the line will look at South Carolina as they’re deciding who to support,” Buttigieg said. 

Ever since he spent time at Fort Jackson while serving in the military, Buttigieg says South Carolina holds a special place in his heart.

Now as he comes back to campaign for President, he says his experience as a mayor will help him connect with voters of all backgrounds.

“A lot of it is sharing my own story, what it means to have guided a city back from the brink in my hometown, what it means to have served in the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, knowing a little bit about exclusion in this country, and that motivates me to help anybody who has ever been on the wrong side of exclusion and discrimination,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said seeing 10,000 teachers protest the state of education in South Carolina back in May was courageous, and says he will continue fighting for them if he gets to the White House.

“We have got to pay our teachers more because the teaching profession is absolutely critical to our future. I’m proud to see the teachers standing up for themselves. They should have a White House standing up with them,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said he also wants to do his part to help the state’s rural economy.

“It’s everything from giving everybody access to the internet and broadband to making sure we do something about how hospitals and doctor’s offices are closing in rural areas. This country’s not doing well as long as rural America is being left,” said Buttigieg. 

As he looks to campaign more in South Carolina over the next few months, Buttigieg says his experience making meaningful connections with voters face-to-face will help his cause on the ballot. 

“This is not about who scores the most points during a cable news appearance or on a debate stage, this is about our lives and the more we are talking about how politics could make our lives better, the more I think we can move on from this crazy show that’s going on in Washington today,” Buttigieg said.

In response to Mayor Buttigieg’s visit to the Palmetto State, Joe Jackson, a spokesman with the Republican National Committee, said the following:

“Today, Pete Buttigieg is here to discuss radical policies that would institute a government-takeover of healthcare, eliminate all fossil fuels, and destroy our booming economy. Meanwhile, families across South Carolina continue to see more jobs, low unemployment rates, and strong economic growth because of the policies instituted by President Trump and Republicans.” 

On Tuesday, Buttigieg is scheduled to talk with students at the University of South Carolina. He’s also opening a new field office in Florence, and taking part in a roundtable discussion with the former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards.

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