VoteVets, the nation’s largest political action committee that supports liberal veterans for public office, announced its presidential endorsement for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg Wednesday.
The endorsement, the first in the progressive group’s history, could serve as another boost for Buttigieg, a former Navy officer who served in Afghanistan. The announcement comes as polling shows a fluid race in early voting states with the Indiana Democrat at or near the top in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“The number one priority has to be beating Donald Trump. In the 13 years VoteVets has been in existence, we have come to see one thing repeated time after time: Veterans can win voters in the purple and red areas of the country that other Democrats cannot,” said Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and chairman of VoteVets, referring to several veterans who won tight races in the 2018 midterms.
“We need a candidate who will win. Bar none, Pete gives us the best shot at doing just that. It is time to rally around him, and stop the walking, talking national security threat that is Donald Trump.”
Along with the endorsement, VoteVets said it would cut a maximum donation check of $2,700 to Buttigieg’s campaign and would use its social media networks and email list to support him. It also teased that “further plans to energize veterans and military families across the country” will be announced as the campaign moves forward.
The group could also activate support from its super PAC, which can engage in issue advocacy and is not mandated to reveal its donors.
“In uniform, I learned that when Americans from different backgrounds are brought together for a common purpose, we form the strongest fighting force in the world,” said Buttigieg. “I’m honored to have this endorsement from my fellow veterans as we seek to take on our nation’s most urgent challenges and pick up the pieces and put the country back together after Trump.”
Buttigieg has sought to flex his muscle among those connected to the military, announcing earlier this month endorsements from over 4,300 veterans and military community members from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. He also unveiled a sweeping plan this month to help veterans, including increasing support to reintegrate them after they complete their service and assisting service members’ families.
However, Wednesday’s endorsement from VoteVets marks the first time Buttigieg’s campaign has won the support of a major political organization as a slimming — but still crowded — 2020 field competes for high-profile backers.
The announcement could be interpreted as a snub of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), another veteran running in the 2020 race who received the support of VoteVets in her House bids.
It could also come with some baggage for Buttigieg, as an increasingly activist base has urged presidential candidates to shun support from super PACs to avoid competing loyalties with special interest groups. While most of the 2020 Democrats said they did not want such groups to influence the primary race, none have explicitly rejected money that super PACs have spent to support their campaign.