Buttigieg faces protesters in N.H. after winning Kuster’s backing

  • Supporters and protesters hold signs during a rally by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire on Friday. Buttigieg was joined onstage by Rep. Annie Kuster. Photo by Paul Steinhauser. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 1/17/2020 5:59:34 PM
Modified: 1/17/2020 5:58:40 PM

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg landed a key endorsement Friday during a brief stop in Concord that also saw the former South Bend, Ind., mayor interrupted at a town hall event at the Grappone Center by environmental protesters who had links to two of Buttigieg’s top-tier rivals for the 2020 nomination.

The endorsement came from Rep. Annie Kuster, the first member of New Hampshire’s all-Democratic four-person congressional delegation to back a candidate in the race for their party’s presidential nomination.

Buttigieg was introduced at the town hall by Kuster, the four-term congresswoman from Hopkinton who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

Kuster compared Buttigieg to former President Barack Obama – who Kuster campaigned for in the 2008 White House election.

“Like Barack Obama before him, he is young, he is inspiring, he brings fresh ideas to the table, and he is motivated to win this election,” Kuster told the crowd.

And Kuster appeared to take an indirect jab at two of Buttigieg’s top-tier rivals for the nomination – Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“We have Democratic candidates in the Iowa caucuses who are tearing each down rather than lifting our country up with a strong coalition of interests and ideas,” she emphasized.

Speaking before Kuster at the event was Jennifer Frizzell, the former longtime vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and current director of policy for the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation. Frizzell – who for years has been the state’s leading spokesperson on women’s health and reproductive issues – also formally endorsed Buttigieg.

The protestors – who identified themselves to the Monitor as belonging to the New Hampshire Youth Movement – held up signs that read “Pete takes money from fossil fuel billionaires” and chanted “We are fighting for our future and together we are strong.”

During the demonstration, Buttigieg said: “I see some inaccurate information going up here,” and spotlighted that he had signed the pledge not to accept campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry.

“I took the fossil-fuel pledge,” he said. The pledge has been signed by nearly the entire field of current and former Democratic presidential contenders.

“We want the same things,” he told the demonstrators, highlighting his battle to combat climate change.

Griffin Sinclair Wingate, a spokesperson for the group – which also protested former Vice President Joe Biden at an October campaign event he held in Manchester – said that, “We are really concerned about candidates who have taken money from fossil fuel executives. So that includes Joe Biden as well as Pete Buttigieg.”

Wingate argued that “Pete Buttigieg hosted a fundraiser in a wine cellar or wine cave with Craig Hall, who runs a firm that funds fossil fuel infrastructure projects. As young persons who’s really concerned about climate change and knows that our lives are threatened by the climate crisis, we cannot have a president who is taking money from fossil fuel executives,” he explained.

That “wine cave” fundraiser grabbed national attention when Warren slammed Buttigieg over the event as the two candidates verbally battled during December’s prime-time debate.

“My reaction is that I have a climate policy that’s going to get us carbon neutral by the middle of the century and starts on day one with aggressive action,” Buttigieg said when asked by the Monitor about the group’s complaints. “And this is personal for me. As the youngest candidate running for president, I will be personally impacted by America’s success or failure dealing with the climate issue.”

He added that, “I respect the issues that they’re raising. I share the goal of making sure that we deal with this and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that we can. One thing that we also know is that we’re going up against a president who’s pulling out all of the stops to remain in power and to block any meaningful action against climate change. We can’t go into that fight with a hand tied behind our back.”

Kevin Donohoe, the New Hampshire communications director for Buttigieg, emphasized that “We do not accept contributions from registered federal lobbyists, corporate PACs or the fossil-fuel industry – and the only promise any donor will ever get from Pete is that he will use their donations to defeat Donald Trump.”

Rights & Democracy N.H., a progressive group that backs Sanders, later said that some of their organizers were involved in the protest.

Following the demonstration, a Massachusetts college campus organizer who volunteered for Warren also took to Twitter to say she was part of that protest.

The Warren campaign said that the woman had indeed volunteered for the campaign in New Hampshire this past summer, but was not a paid staffer.

A Granite State clean energy leader who’s backing Buttigieg praised the candidate’s proposals on combating climate change.

“Pete makes this very explicit – 100% clean energy, carbon neutral over the next few days. And that’s the first bar I want any candidate to hit and Pete definitely hits that,” Revision Energy director of market development Dan Weeks highlighted.

Buttigieg – the longest of long-shots when he declared his candidacy a year ago – soared during 2019 to top-tier status – joining Biden, Sanders and Warren. But he’s seen some slippage in his support in many recent surveys in both New Hampshire and Iowa, which kicks off the presidential nominating calendar in just over two weeks.

“It’s a very fluid race. There’s definitely no other campaign I would want to trade places with,” Buttigieg said of his poll position.

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