DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, 37, attracted over 750 Iowans to a town hall event at the State Historical Museum on a snowy Sunday evening.

The rally marked Buttigieg’s 22nd trip to the state with three weeks to go before the Iowa Caucus on Monday, February 3, 2020. 

State Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines, who endorsed Buttigieg last week, was the first surrogate to speak on stage accompanied by State Rep. Brian Meyer, D-Des Moines, and Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy. They previously endorsed the mayor of South Bend, Ind. who hopes to win the first in the nation caucus. 

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, endorsed Buttigieg earlier in the day, and he also introduced the candidate on stage. 

“Pete offers a new kind of leadership that we desperately need –– he’s a midwestern mayor, a veteran, and is from a new generation. Iowans and our country face great challenges like climate change, increasing health care costs, and an economy that isn’t working for the majority of Americans. They can’t be solved with the same political warfare that is on display in Washington. Pete is the candidate that can heal our divides, restore decency to the presidency, and bring this country together,” Loebsack said in a released statement on Sunday morning.

Buttigieg painted a grim picture of the political landscape in the United States as he described the day that President Trump leaves office.

“On that day, we are going to need the president more than ever. We are going to need the White House and the right values to be in the White House more than ever,” he said. “Think about it; the sun will come up over a country that is even more divided than we are today, even more, torn up over politics, even more, exhausted from fighting than we are right now. That means we are going to need a president capable of unifying the American people and determined to use the powers of the office to help do that. 

“And at the same time, something else will be true, which is what our country will be up against: the issues that have brought up to this point will be as urgent as ever. They are not going to take a break during the impeachment process or during the election process. The sun is going to be coming up in a climate that is this close (holding thumb and forefinger close together) to the point of no return. That is going to be crying out for action,” Buttigieg added.

Black activists wearing Black Lives Matters t-shirts disrupted the event. The group got the candidate’s attention by faking a medical emergency next to the platform. 

Buttigieg attempted to engage the protesters who appeared to be complaining about local issues in South Bend. “I think your facts are a little wrong, so I’d love a chance to talk with you about it, but I’d like for us to talk about it respectfully,” he said.

One female protester responded, shouting, “We’ve been trying to discuss this with you since South Bend.”

As security escorted the protesters away, they shouted, “Anti-black, anti-poor,” and “black lives matter.” 

Buttigieg supporters responded chanting “USA-USA-USA!” 

He also criticized Republicans while addressing faith.

“Let’s look at the values that they are using to try to tell people they don’t belong and think about what it means to actually take them seriously. Faith, right now, religion is being used to tell some people they don’t belong, people being treated differently according to their religion. Some people are being told that being religious requires you to be part of a certain political party. Let’s send a message, once and for all, that God does not belong to a political party in the United States of America,” Buttigieg said. 

He then alluded that the Democratic Party’s platform and his political beliefs are closely aligned with religious traditions, referring to Matthew 25.

“When I think about the values of multiple religious when I think of the teaching that says we are to treat one another the way we would want to be treated. I look at the news right now, thinking, ‘Whatever happened to I was hungry, and you fed me?’ Look at Texas saying they are not going to take refugees anymore, and I’ve got to think about, ‘I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me.’ Surely we can do better no matter what faith tradition, if any, that you belong to,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg later, however, then advocated for same-sex marriage and abortion.

At the end of the event, he was asked how his faith shaped his approach to his campaign. He took a crack at religious conservatives. 

“As someone who knows what it is to sometimes have to deal with other people believing they can impose their interpretation of their own religion on others, it’s very important when I talk about my faith I am not talking about something that I will impose on anyone who has a different religion or no religion,” Buttigieg said.

Interestingly, he has advocated imposing his beliefs on others through his support of the Equality Act that would force people of faith to, for instance, provide services for same-sex weddings contrary to their religious conscience. He said religious liberty should be limited when “it does harm.”

Buttigieg reiterated his view of the gospel that salvation has to do with works.

“I want to share how my formation works, and a part of it is a belief in my faith tradition that salvation has to do with how you make yourself useful to others, in particular, those who are the most on the margins, those who are most oppressed, cast out by society,” he explained.

“I belong to a Christian tradition where this is so much where scripture takes us. And, by the way, this is why I believe we need to talk more about poverty. When you are a politician, they tell you, ‘Talk about the middle class. Everybody is middle class and only talk about the middle class.’ But there’s no teaching, as far as I know in any religion, that says, ‘As you have done unto the middle class, you have done unto me.’ We’ve got to talk about poverty, especially in our country,” Buttigieg said.

“I think it is even more true the more you reach positions that are exalted or are getting a lot of attention or ceremony here on earth. The truth is government officials don’t come off great in the New Testament, but one of the main messages of the New Testament is God, himself, spends his time when he comes to earth on things like washing the feet of the dejected,” he said referring to Christ’s washing the feet of his disciples prior to their last meal together before his crucifixion.

That act of service, feet are gross, especially in that society of two thousand years ago, and the idea that the greater your station, the greater your power, the more you should be concerning yourself with making yourself useful in comforting those who are most on the margins. That animates me; it does have implications for how I will prioritize my attention in ways that I hope people, regardless of moral or religious traditions, can support as the right thing to do,” Buttigieg concluded.

Watch his entire remarks and Q&A session:

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