The longest-serving African-American member on South Bend, Indiana’s Common Council endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday for the Democratic Party presidential nomination over his city’s own mayor, Pete Buttigieg.
“In times like these, when the political winds are fiercely blowing across our country, it’s important for us to have an experienced leader who has been through the diverse storms of life to guide our country,” Councilman Oliver Davis said in a statement released by the Biden campaign. “That’s why I am very pleased to support Vice President Joe Biden to be our next president of the United States of America.”
While Buttigieg has been gaining momentum nationally and in some early states such as Iowa, he has still been failing to gain traction with African-American voters. A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac shows him with 0% of the black vote in South Carolina, while Biden is polling in the Palmetto State with 44% black support.
During the Democratic National Committee’s most recent presidential primary debate, Buttigieg suggested that he is still unknown to black voters and stated that he “welcome[s] the challenge of connecting with black voters in American who don’t yet know me.”
Davis, however, revealed to Politico that the South Bend mayor’s struggle to gain support from communities of color “is not a new problem for him” and further noted that “[f]or us, this has been a consistent issue that has not gone away.”
In what many considered to be an attempt to win over black voters, Buttigieg formally introduced his 18-page Douglass Plan in July amid criticism of his handling of a racially tinged police shooting in his hometown of South Bend. The sweeping proposal calls for a broad series of political and policy reforms, including issues such as criminal justice, education, housing, health disparities, voting rights, and even the racial wealth gap.
The plan seeks to convince black voters that he deserves their support despite their reported skepticism, but has moved the needle little since it was first previewed during the Black Economic Alliance Presidential Forum in South Carolina.
“When you’re flying in the middle of a storm, you want to make sure you have steady, experienced leadership,” Davis told Politico. “I believe that Vice President Biden has demonstrated throughout the years by having a steady hand, he can help lead us through these times, and with all of the challenges we face nationally and now even internationally, he has the relationships, has the skills, and I think he can bring us together in different ways.”
Buttigieg brushed off the snub, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that he and Davis don’t often see eye-to-eye on politics, and contended that no one person speaks for South Bend’s African-American constituency.
“Councilman Davis, I respect him a lot, we’ve definitely disagreed on politics a great deal, not to take you into the whole story of South Bend politics, but you know, I respect him coming from a different place politically,” Buttigieg said. “Obviously no one person speaks for black voters in South Bend.”