BISMARCK — It was all about values when former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp addressed about 150 Democrats from around the state during the third annual Governor's Dinner on Thursday night, May 28.
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., told Democrats at the private fundraiser held virtually through Zoom that this election was about "a sense of calling to higher values."
He said his values and those of many Democrats he stands with center around the security of the nation as it relates to global health, climate, cyber attacks, elections, democracy and equality.
Heitkamp and Buttigieg said "better leadership was needed" amid the anguish of this week with the nation reaching 100,000 deaths because of COVID-19 and the death of a black man at the hands of police in Minneapolis that they said President Donald Trump turned into a talking point about himself.
The week was made worse in the state with the death of a Grand Forks police officer who had family ties, Heitkamp said.
Both speakers at the Governor's Dinner — an event named for former state Democratic governors William Guy, Art Link and George Sinner—threw their support behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Former Vice President Joe Biden.
The first thing Biden brought up about the divisiveness of the times is that the "soul of the nation was at stake," Buttigieg said.
With that in mind, the first openly gay man to win a primary caucus, as he did in Iowa, said he had no problem throwing his support to Biden after dropping out of the race.
Heitkamp said she knows Biden will never win North Dakota in the presidential election, but she believes Democrats can lower the margin of victory in the state for Trump, as he won handily in 2016.
Noting a chance of hope in the presidential race in red states such as North Dakota, Buttigieg said former President Barack Obama won Indiana in 2008 and Heitkamp pointed to a poll just released that showed Biden behind Trump by only 4 points in Missouri.
Buttigieg said he knows many Democrats are wringing their hands wondering about how to help campaign with the social distancing of the pandemic. He urged party members to volunteer for phone banks and find other ways to help candidates from their homes.
The upcoming election is "a once in a lifetime chance to build a better, stronger, kinder country," he said.
Since leaving the presidential race, he has been working with a political action committee and nonprofit group called Win the Era to elect like-minded candidates "up and down the ballot," he said, from county supervisors to U.S. senators.
Buttigieg, known on the campaign trail to talk about his Midwestern values, said the goals are to invest in public education to give everyone an equal chance, empower workers for a better wage, preserve the democracy through elections that he said can be fairly held by mail-in ballots and, in a reference to his religious faith, to help the oppressed and marginalized.
"God doesn't belong to any political party," he said.
Heitkamp, who has been working on her and former Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly's One Country Project to bring rural voters back to the Democratic party, said supporters can also answer "untruths" found on social media and talk with their neighbors and friends.