DALLAS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — After coming in a close second in New Hampshire and winning in Iowa, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg said his message will win over Democrats in Texas, a state with far more Latinos and African-Americans.
But polls in Texas and nationally show Buttigieg remains in fifth place and he doesn’t poll well among African-American and Latino voters.
During a satellite interview, CBS 11 asked Buttigieg what he says to people of color who live in more diverse states, given the criticism he faced as Mayor about his city’s police department.
Buttigieg said, “So I’m welcoming the opportunity to engage Latino voters and African-American voters.”
Buttigieg has come under fire for his record as mayor.
The Intercept reported its analysis found between 2012 and 2018, the number of African-Americans in South Bend were about four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.
The Buttigieg campaign says arrest rates for marijuana and drug possession are generally low in South Bend and trended downward for the vast majority of time Buttigieg served as mayor.
But pressed during the most recent debate by a moderator about the marijuana possession arrests alone, Buttigieg said:
“One of the strategies our community adopted, was to target when there were cases where there was gun violence and gang violence, which was slaughtering so many in our community, burying teenagers, disproportionately black teenagers, we adopted a strategy that said that drug enforcement would be targeted in cases where there was a connection to the most violent groups or gangs connected to a murder. These things are all connected. But that’s the point. So are all of the things that need to change in order for us to prevent violence, and remove the effects of systemic racism, not just from criminal justice, but from our economy, our health, housing, and from our democracy itself.”
Buttigieg has proposed decriminalizing marijuana possession and making it retroactive, by reducing sentences for those still in jail.
South Bend’s population is 26% African-American.
During his time as Mayor between 2012 through this year, the number of African-Americans serving as police officers dropped from 11 to 6%.
Buttigieg said he’ll campaign with African-American elected leaders from his city who support him.
“Not because we have been able to solve every problem or get everything perfect, but because of the results we’ve gotten on the ground: cutting black poverty dramatically, cutting black unemployment, supporting Latino residents with Spanish language resources and making sure there was municipal ID for those who are not able to get other forms of identification.”
Federal data shows since Buttigieg took office in South Bend, poverty among African-Americans dropped by nearly 40%.
Buttigieg’s website points to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that he established in the city to identify economic disadvantages.
The city was one of five cited by Governing Magazine to be high-performing race-informed cities.
On Friday afternoon, the Buttigieg campaign released a plan to “invest in building a stronger future for Black America.”
When it comes to the 2020 election, Eddie Reeves, a Democrat in Dallas, said his number one goal is to find a candidate who can and will beat President Donald Trump.
But he said he finds himself in a strange predicament.
“I don’t ever remember being this close to the primary and being undecided ever since I started voting,” he said.
Reeves said while Buttigieg has run a great campaign, he has not closed the deal.
“I don’t know a whole lot about his record, but what little I’ve heard some of it gives me some pause. One of the ways I gauge it, frankly is I’ve not seen any African-Americans from his hometown where he’s Mayor on the national stump for him very much,” he said.
Two South Bend Common Council Members, Sharon McBride and Karen White support Buttigieg, while another, Henry Davis, Jr., who challenged him unsuccessfully for mayor, has criticized him for not dealing with problems facing African-Americans there.
Buttigieg told CBS 11 his campaign is about bringing real progressive change.
“Empowering workers, expecting corporations to pay their fair share delivering healthcare, confronting gun violence, doing something about climate change,” he said.
He said he and his campaign are planning to return to Texas before the March 3 Super Tuesday primary.