Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during the African American Leadership Summit Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Buttigieg campaign grows, looking to sustain early momentum

June 07, 2019 - 5:12 pm

CHICAGO (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has been quickly growing his upstart campaign, expanding its footprint in early states, adding veterans of previous presidential bids and now taking over a Chicago office previously occupied by an offshoot of President Barack Obama's campaigns.

The team has grown from six people in January to roughly 85, and the campaign expects to more than double that number in the coming months as the 37-year-old tries to maintain his early momentum through the long haul of the 2020 race.

The campaign will soon move for a second time to a larger headquarters in downtown South Bend, Indiana, where Buttigieg is finishing his second term as mayor. This week his Chicago-based staff moved from a shared workspace to its own office in the former home of Organizing for Action, which formed out of Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Outgoing OFA staffers welcomed the Buttigieg campaign with a box of doughnuts.

It's a long way from the dark, largely unfurnished office where Buttigieg and his half dozen staffers hatched his longshot campaign in January. By spring, the Afghanistan veteran had climbed into the top tier of a crowded field and said his next goal was to ensure the campaign had the resources and substance to be more than a "flavor of the month."

He's been aided by stronger-than-expected fundraising , bringing in millions more than some U.S. senators in the first quarter of this year. The haul for the quarter that ends this month is expected to exceed his first $7 million total, thanks to support from big-dollar donors as well as popular "grassroots fundraisers" attended by crowds that can exceed 1,000 people, each paying around $25.

"We are continuing to build our operations both at headquarters and in the states, and we're excited to continue to share Pete's message of generational change with more Americans," campaign manager Mike Schmuhl said Friday. "Pete is a different sort of candidate, and we're building a different sort of campaign."

Many of the new hires will be working in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Campaign spokesman Chris Meagher says it's a diverse staff, 55% of whom are women.

Recent hires include chief innovation officer Ann Mei Chang, who previously held leadership positions at Google, several startups and the U.S. Agency for International Development. In her new role, she will lead tech, data and analytics for the campaign. The campaign's new creative director is Jillian Maryonovich, who held the same position for the Obama White House' Office of Digital Strategy and was a lead interactive designer for Obama's 2012 campaign.

Buttigieg also has added Larry Grisolano and John Del Cecato of AKPD Message and Media, the advertising company that worked on Obama's 2008 campaign.