Black South Bend official endorses Biden, criticizes Buttigieg

The former president of the South Bend, Indiana, Common Council on Friday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president, and criticized South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as the city’s mayor faces more questions about his appeal to black voters.

Oliver Davis is one of the longest-serving black South Bend council members, according to a news release by the Biden campaign. Davis ran for mayor in South Bend this year and lost to James Mueller, whom Buttigieg endorsed as his preferred successor. Buttigieg has been mayor of South Bend since 2012, and did not seek reelection.

“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. That’s why I am very pleased to support Vice President Joe Biden to be our next President of the United States of America,” Davis said in a statement provided by the Biden campaign.

Davis told CNN he served for nine years as the vice president of the council, and was president for one year.

Davis told Politico that Biden is more experienced, and said he doubted Buttigieg could win a general election given his low level of support among black voters. Davis told Politico that Buttigieg’s problem attracting support from communities of color “is not a new problem for him.” He said: “For us, this has been a consistent issue that has not gone away.”

Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” that he and Davis have disagreed on politics, and that no one person speaks for black voters in South Bend.

“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,” Buttigieg continued, and touted the support his campaign has received from black voters in Indiana and South Bend.

Buttigieg has so far struggled to gain traction among black voters. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Buttigieg polling at 0% among black voters who are likely to vote in the South Carolina democratic primary. His low poll numbers among a key voting bloc could be a major stumbling block in early contests.

Buttigieg said that same poll found most black likely voters in South Carolina don’t currently have an opinion of him.

“That means we’ve got work to do, but we’re doing the work,” he said, adding he will be “engaging a lot personally.”

Biden, in contrast, enjoys solid and unmatched support among black voters, which has bolstered his standing in the polls. In the same Quinnipiac poll, Biden is at 44% support among black voters likely to vote in the South Carolina Democratic primary, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders a distant second with 10% among the same demographic.

Davis told Politico that Biden “has an understanding of the Midwest,” and said he believes Biden can turn Indiana blue in 2020.

“What he’s doing nationally, it’s not a fluke. It’s real,” Davis said. “His numbers are real throughout the country because people know him.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Oliver Davis’ title.