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Bloomington Residents Consider Presidential Hopefuls During Dem. Debate Watch Party

Residents at the Crazy Horse for the candidate watch party.

Many anticipated remarks from Democratic candidate and South bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg. (Alex Eady, WTIU/WFIU News)

Locals tuned in to a second round of Democratic presidential candidate debates during a live watch party last night.

Nearly 40 people filled the back room of the Crazy Horse Taven in downtown Bloomington to hear from the presidential hopefuls.

The showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates — according to early polls, at least. Those are Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who debated Wednesday night, is the fifth.

The party, hosted by the Monroe County Democrats, gave viewers the chance to narrow down and pinpoint the long list of Democratic agendas.

Many anticipated remarks from South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttiegieg, a standout from the candidates who has gained attention for his experience and political vision.

Monroe County Democratic Party Chairwoman, Jennifer Crossley says she recognizes Buttigieg as a candidate who’s come a long way.

"He was an unknown person that was just this mayor that has some charisma, and he’s now made a name for himself," says Crossley.

READ MORE: Can Buttigieg Keep Up Momentum In Presidential Race?

Despite his growing popularity, Buttigieg has faced criticism for his response to last week’s fatal shooting in South Bend of a black man by a white police officer.

The incident has sparked controversy and reignited long-standing tensions over Buttigieg’s progress toward diversifying the local police force and holding officers accountable.

The fresh-faced mayor faced tough questions about the shooting. He said an investigation was underway, and acknowledged the underlying racial tensions in his city and others.

"It's a mess," Buttigieg said plainly, noting that such issues have plagued communities across America. "We're hurting."

He sidestepped pointed calls to fire his police chief, calling instead for a time when white and black people would react the same way when confronted by police.

Little-known California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who is just 38 years old, was among Buttigieg's chief critics. He also took a swipe at Biden's advanced age.

Ron Smith is a Bloomington resident and a candidate for the District 3 City Council seat. Watching the debate at Crazy Horse he said he feels Buttigieg hasn’t responded to the issue as well as he could, but he’s confident in his ability to remediate the situation.

"He needs to reach out to the black community and he needs to find some common ground and try to forge some understanding," says Smith.

Buttigieg, a 37-year-old gay former military officer, is four decades younger than Sanders and Biden and has framed his candidacy as a call for generational change in his party.

He displayed a fluency on a range of policy issues and hit hard on efforts by Republican Trump to stifle the flow of illegal immigration at the Mexican border.

"For a party that associates itself with Christianity to say it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages," that party "has lost all claim to ever use religious language," he said.

The party's broader fight over ideology took a back seat at times to its racial and generational divisions.

Either Biden or Sanders would be the oldest president ever elected.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

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