TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA)—Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigned in Tampa Bay on Wednesday for Joe Biden, delivering his message to voters in two of the most crucial counties in Florida.
Hoping to push Joe Biden to victory in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Buttigieg started his day with an intimate rally at the Tampa Bay Historical Museum. Flanked by supporters, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor, and several veterans, Buttigieg talked about learning this area through his military service.
“I’m excited to be here because this is a place that a lot of the people I served with called home when they were not on deployment with me,” Buttigieg said.
Several hours later, Mayor Pete held a much larger rally with several hundred people in Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg.
“Every single vote is critical to the future of the country, especially right here in Florida,” Buttigieg said.
In a one-on-one interview with 8 On Your Side political reporter Evan Donovan, Buttigieg talked about topics ranging from depoliticizing the Supreme Court to Florida’s proposed amendment to raise the minimum wage $1 a year until it’s $15/hour in 2026.
“We’ve done this dozens of times as a country and all of those predictions of economic catastrophe have proven to be false again and again and again,” Buttigieg said about the fears of some business owners that their firms can’t handle the wage increase. “I don’t know why this time would be any different.”
Buttigieg’s rally started in St. Petersburg with a protester loudly screaming his support for President Donald Trump in front of the dais.
“Watching him in person today was really inspiring,” said Jacey Sheeley, a Biden supporter who said she only knew of Buttigieg from the debates, but was very impressed with him. “Even the way he handled the people who were angry with him.”
Josh Kessel is a gay man from Tampa who supported Buttigieg since the primary.
“As a gay man, it gave me hope,” Kessel said. “Because I’ve always thought about going into political office myself. Seeing this opportunity, seeing someone like me could be in the White House…it’s an amazing feat.”
Elizabeth Kolodziejczak is an American who has spent a lot of time in Australia. She recently relocated to Tampa Bay after her mother did.
For her, supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is all about her daughter’s future.
“I want her to grow up in a country and a world where she feels her life is valued and her life matters,” said Kolodziejczak. “And under the current administration I don’t think that’s the case.”
Buttigieg was tight-lipped about his future plans.
When asked what role he’s eyeing if Biden wins the presidency, Buttigieg didn’t take the bait.
“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” Buttigieg said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure there is a Biden/Harris administration.”
Watch 8 On Your Side’s weekly political show Battleground Florida with host Evan Donovan every Sunday morning at 9:30 right before Meet the Press.
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