The former mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, endorsed Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign on Friday, citing him as one of the people whose advice he sought ahead of the deadly 2017 clash between white supremacists and counter protesters.
Michael Signer, who was the Charlottesville mayor at the time of the Unite the Right demonstration, told The Associated Press that he turned to Buttigieg because of his experience as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan.
At a time when Signer was receiving what he describes as simplistic or minimizing advice, he said he found Buttigeg’s thoughts clear-eyed. Buttigieg, who is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, urged city officials to relocate the demonstration from a smaller downtown park to a larger park to improve security, Signer said.
“If anything, a grim and realistic take on the coming civil unrest was the most valuable perspective that we could have had, and that’s what the ultimate results showed,” Signer said. “I would credit his perception to, at least, to my decision to relocate the rally.”
The event still proved deadly. Anti-racism protester Heather Heyer was killed after an avowed white supremacist deliberately drove his car into a group of protesters during the Aug. 12 confrontation.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has cited the clash — and President Donald Trump’s tepid reaction to it — as a central reason he decided to run for the Democratic nomination. Signer, who left office last year, says his endorsement is not a slight toward Biden.
“I would fight my heart out for him,” if he’s nominated, Signer said. “With that said, I’ve been uniquely impressed by how Pete has grown his campaign and what I’ve said about the fresh start and the new era he describes every day.”
Signer was the 2009 Democratic nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor. Virginia is among 15 states to hold its presidential primary on March 3, 2020, so-called Super Tuesday.