Buttigieg and Pence, former Indiana leaders, offer rivaling messages in Michigan

By: - November 5, 2022 7:49 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson at a rally in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Nov. 4, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg addressed Vice President Mike Pence’s simultaneous appearance on the campaign trail in Michigan on Friday during the final stretch before Election Day.

Pence, who campaigned in Portage for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) and in Charlotte for state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), was governor of Indiana while Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend. While stumping for Barrett, he stressed issues like immigration, inflation and military funding.

“I saw that my old pal, Mike Pence, is here in Michigan campaigning, too,” Buttigieg said in Ann Arbor, telling the crowd for a Democratic rally that “I would never think of myself as fit to pronounce on whether he and his wife ought to stay married” before asking why Republicans think they should be able to make that determination for Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten, by potentially overturning the right to same-sex marriage.

In September, Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock sent a homophobic tweet about Buttigieg, calling him a “little girl.” Neither she nor the Republican Party apologized.

State Sen. Tom Barrett and Vice President Mike Pence in Charlotte, Nov. 4, 2022 | Kyle Davidson

Buttigieg, who now lives in Traverse City, said that some Republican candidates’ positions on issues like same-sex marriage are out of step with many Republican voters. 

“Only in Washington do I run into a Republican member of Congress who will shake my hand, ask how my spouse and kids are doing, then go to the floor of the House the next day and vote against my marriage,” Buttigieg said.

Michigan GOP spokesperson Gustavo Portelasaid in a tweet that “Whitmer’s ideas are not in line with working Michiganders who, unlike Pete and Gretchen, are struggling to make ends meet and pay the bills.”

On Tuesday, Huizenga is running against Democrat Joseph Alfonso and Barrett is trying to oust U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing).

Buttigieg made six campaign stops for the Democratic ticket throughout Southwest Michigan and Southeast Michigan on Friday, just under a week after making three stops in the northern Lower Peninsula last weekend.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a rally with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan Democrats in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Nov. 4, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Buttigieg, who ran for president in 2020, is one of the most in-demand campaign surrogates in the nation, with requests for him to appear reportedly outpacing those for Vice President Kamala Harris.

But Buttigieg, as he pointed out Friday, is “proud to be one of the newest Michigan Democrats and I was proud to cast my vote for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer” after moving to Traverse City. Whitmer is being challenged by Republican Tudor Dixon.

The Ann Arbor rally, which took place on the campus of the University of Michigan, drew over 1,000 people, one of Whitmer’s largest campaign events of the cycle. The event also featured the rest of the Democratic ticket: Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel. Benson and Nessel are facing Republicans Kristina Karamo and Matt DePerno, respectively, on Tuesday.

Whitmer introduced Buttigieg as “the nation’s fix the damn roads guy.”

Buttigieg pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – and potential future decisions on things like gay marriage – as examples of the impacts of election results.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a rally with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other Michigan Democrats in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Nov. 4, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“Take it from somebody whose marriage depends on a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court, there are unbelievably practical and important consequences for these elections,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, there is a “very real question … about whether something has changed in the course of American history – a national story which, for the last 250 years, has been about every generation seeing more prosperity, more freedom, and more rights than the generation that came before. Not a straight line, sometimes a zigzag, but that has been the American story. 

“And then, we have the decision coming down from the Court that is forcing us to ask the very real question of whether these generations now living in America will be the ones to witness the high watermark of rights and freedoms in this country.”

Michigan has a 1931 felony abortion ban on the books that’s been on hold amid court action. This election, Michiganders will vote on Proposal 3, which would supersede the abortion ban and enshrine abortion rights in Michigan’s Constitution.

But Buttigieg said he wanted to offer a message not only of potential peril, but also of hope for Democrats.


“We’re so close to the cliff that we can look over it and see that it’s a long way down, and see that we’re not very far from it,” Buttigieg said. “But if we turn and face the higher heights, we could be the generations that bring America and Michigan to a better place than we’ve ever been at before.”

Pence and Barrett both sidestepped questions Friday about whether voters could be confident in Tuesday’s elections and how Barrett would respond if he wasn’t declared the winner. 

Buttigieg addressed the ongoing denialism of the 2020 presidential election that former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden by many Republican candidates, officials and voters. 

“The whole idea of democracy is we’re in this together. We do in fact live in the same reality, whether people see it or not. We live in the same country, we are subject to the same laws, the same economy, and we share the same thing,” Buttigieg said. “Which is why we participate in the same process, namely the election process, and expect politicians to abide by the result, just like we abide by the laws they pass.”


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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.