Pete Buttigieg editorial board

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., laughs as he answers a question during a meeting with the Sioux City Journal's editorial board in January 2020.

DES MOINES -- One of the top finishers of the 2020 Iowa caucuses returned to Iowa on Wednesday night — virtually, anyway — to deliver an urgent address at a Democratic fundraiser.

Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Ind. mayor who finished atop the 2020 Democratic caucuses along with Bernie Sanders, addressed Progress Iowa’s annual Corn Feed fundraiser, which was held virtually Wednesday night amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

Buttigieg recalled a staple of his presidential campaign speeches in calling politics “personal,” relating that to the 2020 general election presidential race between Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden and Republican incumbent President Donald Trump.

“When I first had a chance to address you (during the caucus campaign), I talked about how politics is personal, and it’s personal for me because of how my life has gone," Buttigieg said. "It’s personal for you in a different way. And this pandemic is showing us just how urgently, searingly, bluntly personal everything about the election at hand is for all of us.

“We are now confronting some of our biggest, toughest, long-standing challenges as a country, things that we've been concerned about for a long time.”

Buttigieg and Sanders finished within a fraction of a percent of each other in the 2020 Democratic caucuses. Although Buttigieg emerged with more state delegate equivalents, most media organizations did not declare a winner because of the narrow outcome and contested results at multiple precincts.

During Wednesday night’s fundraiser, Buttigieg said he wished he could be in Iowa in person and that he and his husband Chasten are thinking about the Iowans whose lives were upended by the Aug. 10 derecho.

Buttigieg also said the country inevitably will look different after the pandemic, and that is, in part, what makes November’s presidential election so crucial.

“Our recovery is going to have to include decisions that by their nature will shape American life for the rest of our lifetimes," Buttigieg said. "And we’re not just going to be re-establishing all of the old political and economic arrangements we knew before with the same winners and losers and the same weaknesses and injustices. We can’t do that. And we shouldn’t try.

“I’m convinced that the decision we’re making right now, at the start of what’s going to be America’s deciding decade for this century, is going to shape everything for the rest of our lives.”

Ashley Biden, the daughter of Joe and Jill Biden, spoke later during the event. She told Iowa Democrats that her father as president would work to expand access to health care, address climate change, reduce gun violence and assist caregivers.

She also said the race is about character.

“Right now, people are suffering," she said. "We’re experiencing collective loss and grief in the hands of this pandemic. We’re struggling to keep our economy afloat. And we’re outraged at the systemic racism that continues to plague every aspect of our society.

“These are trying times. And it’s also true that even before all of this, the system wasn’t working. My dad knows that. And there’s no one better to lead us forward.”

Iowa’s Democratic candidates for federal office also spoke at the fundraiser: Theresa Greenfield for U.S. Senate and Abby Finkenauer, Rita Hart, Cindy Axne and J.D. Scholten for the U.S. House.

Those candidates — and keynote speaker Katie Porter, an Iowa native and California congresswoman — were the target of a statement issued by the Iowa Republican Party, which accused Democratic candidates of favoring policies that Republicans labeled “anti-agriculture.”

“It’s fitting that Iowa Democrats are appearing alongside an out-of-touch California liberal tonight, since they share the same radical, anti-ag agenda that would cripple Iowa’s economy,” Iowa GOP spokesman Aaron Britt said in the statement. “Their priorities lie with coastal elites like Katie Porter and the radical environmental groups supporting them, not with the thousands of Iowans that feed and fuel the world.”

The fundraising event also included a voting rights discussion with state lawmaker Ras Smith of Waterloo, Let America Vote founder Jason Kander, End Citizens United president Tiffany Muller, and People for the American Way president Ben Jealous.

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