Flashback: When Mayor Pete Liked Mike Pence

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April 8, 2019

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg called out Mike Pence personally for the vice president's opposition to same-sex marriage during a speech this Sunday—a sharp turn from Buttigieg's previous tone toward Pence. 

"If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," Buttigieg said at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch this weekend. "And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me—your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."

Buttigieg also criticized Pence's role in President Donald Trump's administration during a  speech in March, calling Pence a "cheerleader of the porn star presidency."

But when Pence was governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017, he and Buttigieg enjoyed a friendly relationship, despite their opposed views on political and social issues. Pence visited South Bend in 2012 for Dyngus Day, a Polish holiday devoted to sausage-making, celebrated in the city the Monday after Easter. Although he has no Polish blood, Pence told reporters that he "fell in love with Dyngus Day" and wanted to return, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Pence did come back for Dyngus Day in 2013, and spent much of his time with Buttigieg. A photoshoot from the Tribune shows the two in an events hall eating sausages together, wearing beaded necklaces, and talking with local political leaders. Pence told reporters that, if possible, he would like to make Dyngus Day a tradition in his tenure as governor.

"I think today is really about celebrating the great ethnic heritage and the community that is St. Joseph County," Pence said. "This is only my second Dyngus Day, but I'll tell you what, we're going to make this a tradition."

Buttigieg also spoke approvingly of the event, saying that such practices might help state leaders work past their differences.

"Politics aside, we have to be partners when it comes to creating jobs here," Buttigieg said of Pence. "He's the governor of Indiana, South Bend is in Indiana, so our interests are very much aligned when it comes to South Bend's future."

The friendly relationship continued when Pence returned to South Bend in July for a fitness walk around the city to meet its residents. Upon Pence's arrival, Buttigieg presented him with a white t-shirt with the phrase "I (heart) SB" written on it. Pence pulled it on over his polo and wore the shirt as he walked around town.

While he walked, members of South Bend's LGBT community approached Pence and criticized him for his views on same sex marriage. Pence told them, "I really respect your opinion," and explained his own position, which Indiana courts would soon overrule. After his walk, Pence visited Buttigieg, according to the Tribune.   

The two men kept a friendly relationship even after Pence ascended to the White House, with Buttigieg stating in a Nov. 14 tweet that he had exchanged messages of congratulations with the newly elected vice president.

But when he began mulling a run for the presidency, Buttigieg turned sour on Pence. The mayor tweeted out in 2017 that he no longer respects the former governor.

"The Mike Pence I knew here in Indiana was sincere and straightforward, even in disagreement," Buttigieg wrote. "Stunts were beneath him. So much has changed."