Why I Left The GOP And Am Backing Pete Buttigieg

A guest post from Bobbi Hancock, a longtime political activist from Council Bluffs.

For 25 years, I was a registered Republican.

I voted for the GOP candidate in five straight presidential elections. I caucused for Rick Santorum and worked tirelessly for Marco Rubio.

Seven months ago, I switched my political affiliation to “No Party.” Two months ago, I registered as a Democrat and volunteered to help Mayor Pete Buttigieg in his presidential run.

In 2020, for the first time, I will vote for a Democrat for the highest office in the land.

I was born and raised in a small, conservative community in Southwest Iowa. When I turned eighteen, I registered as a Republican, because my parents and most adults I knew were Republican. Ronald Reagan had been elected when I was five, and we had a Republican in the White House for the next twelve years — basically, my entire childhood.

Republican was all I knew.

In 2011, I became the “token” conservative contributor for a liberal San Francisco-based website, writing a handful of pieces per month from my end of the political spectrum. I became active in politics, garnering media credentials to the Iowa Straw Poll Debate in 2011, as well as to other candidate forums, culminating with full media credentials to the 2012 RNC in Tampa.

In early 2012, I caucused for Santorum, giving a speech that converted several caucus-goers. In late 2015, I was asked to join Senator Marco Rubio’s Iowa team, volunteering out of their Ankeny office despite living over two hours away. I put over two thousand miles on my car for Rubio, spending most of my free time helping the Senator.

Then came the Iowa Caucus. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump topped Rubio, which was the beginning of the end for me. I was a delegate to the county, district and state GOP convention, but was disappointed with what I saw around me.

Through spring and summer, I watched Trump gain momentum and win the nomination. I stopped writing altogether. He was not someone I wanted to write about, and he soiled everything around him for me.

I am ashamed to admit I voted for him, because, again, Republican was all I’d known, and I’d been told by every prominent Republican that I needed to buck up and support the party. I had heard the Access Hollywood tapes. I thought he was gross, but figured, “How bad could he be?”

I have since found out. Trump is an unapologetic racist, a misogynistic bully.

That was depressing on its own, but even more upsetting was watching Republicans I previously respected, Republicans who railed against Trump during the primaries, embrace him. Trump called Rubio “Little Marco.” Rubio stood on the debate stage and called Trump out as a despicable con man and a liar. Months later, I watched, disgustedly, while Rubio voiced his support for his former nemesis.

Over the past three years, I have seen countless politicians trade self respect for power, and I’ve seen friends and family members cheer on a man who bashes women, minorities, and immigrants. My heart ached as I struggled with my place in the party.

Last November, I changed my affiliation to “No Party,” as I knew I couldn’t be part of what the GOP had become.

Also in November, I married a man who had recently left the GOP and registered as a Democrat. We watched Morning Joe regularly, and I recorded the Sunday talk shows to check out the potential presidential candidates. Being in Iowa, we start the campaign cycle early, and I wanted to see who looked promising.

A few weeks into watching, I found myself drawn to a lesser-known candidate, the Mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg. I watched his CNN Town Hall in March and his appearances on Morning Joe and Meet the Press, among others.

What drew me to Pete was his intelligence, his humility, his faith, and his earnestness. When Pete talks about battling student loan debt, he knows from experience — Pete and his husband Chasten have a six-figure loan debt themselves. When he talks budgets and governing, he knows from being a mayor.

As a teacher, I appreciate that Pete is married to a teacher and understands the challenges facing educators. Part of my job is teaching at-risk preschool children from low-income families or families with a single parent, abuse or addiction issues, etc. The other part of my job is teaching English to students who are newcomers here. Hearing Pete talk about helping “the least of these,” supporting immigrants and refugees, helping families who worry about putting food on the table or getting decent healthcare for their children, speaks to me. 

The hardest part of leaving the GOP for me was reconciling my choice with my strong Christian faith.

It shouldn’t be this way, but there is an association between conservatives, Christians and Republicans. At least, when you’re in the GOP, you see it touted as the “party of faith and family values.” I’ve seen t-shirts at events with sayings like “God, Guns, and Trump,” as if my God was on the same level as firearms and a crude politician.

I wasn’t sure I would find a Democratic candidate who shared my values.

When asked about his faith, Mayor Pete once replied, “Part of what it means to walk in the way of faith is to concern yourself with making sure the poor and sick and marginalized have your help. Not to glorify the wealthy and powerful and make them even more wealthy and powerful. That’s my understanding of my faith.”

That resonated with me. His stance on criminal justice reform, along with his support for immigrants, refugees, and others who need compassion instead of cruelty, won me over.

In May, I changed my registration to Democrat and contacted the Buttigieg campaign to see how I could help. I’ve done some phone banking and worked a few events: Des Moines’ Capital City Pride, the AARP Forum in Council Bluffs and a forum in a barn in Shenandoah.

At the last event, I had the opportunity to shake Pete’s hand and thank him for his efforts. He thanked me for being a teacher.

It feels good to be back in the political arena after a few years away, and even better to know there are still politicians out there who are truly looking out for the greater good.


by Bobbi Hancock
Photo by Julie Fleming
Posted 7/25/19

34 Comments on "Why I Left The GOP And Am Backing Pete Buttigieg"

  • What a beautiful testimony, Bobbi. I support Pete Buttigieg as well. I’ve always been a Democrat, but I feel like Pete calls us back to a place that is not really left or right, but grounded in core values of decency, compassion, and service. I like how he talks about politics in fresh terms that bypass the stalemate and near hysteria we’ve grown into, and yet he also harkens back to the great leaders of the religious left in the 60’s like MLK and Bobby Kennedy. He has the potential to be a great peacemaker for our two parties and a healer of the divides in our country. I hope more people see what you and I see!

    • I love what said about him bringing people back to their core values, which have nothing to do with left or right. I feel you hit the nail on the head! He’s a decent human being who is intelligent, empathetic, understanding and he definitely what the country needs!!!

  • I’m not a fan of Buttigieg, but I appreciate that you are a thinking person who is determined to stay engaged in making a better world. Keep questioning and keep growing. It was a pleasure to read this.

  • What a great piece to read Bobbi.

    My father feels the same way. Voted for Trump in 2016, but will caucus for Pete after hearing him speak about Patriotism and National Security.

  • Welcome to the party.

    Here’s hoping you have productive discussions with both Democrats and Republicans.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I, too, was a Republican, but I switched much earlier.
    I remain a full-fledged Christian; I like to think that my faith led to my political affiliation.

  • Thank you for writing this and for following your conscience. If only our government leaders would govern by truth and decency…
    Pete Buttigieg is by far the best candidate and the best choice for president than anyone I have ever seen. He has great intelligence, discipline, talent, experience, and heart. I love that he is a war veteran, that he speaks several languages, that he is curious and hard-working, and that he is authentic. You made a great choice!

  • I too believe that Pete Buttigieg (and Chasten) is exactly who our nation needs in this precarious moment to lead us all to be the change we wish to see in this world! He may be 37, but he has experienced and acquired knowledge well beyond most people decades older.

  • Pete is one of the most intelligent, and deep-thinking candidates out there. I do love how he is focused on things to make our lives better and refuses to be labeled.
    What I love most about this voter’s testimony is that it’s obvious to me that she’s putting the individual candidate and the country ahead of any party. We’d ALL be better served if everyone did that.

  • About four years ago I had just moved to a very conservative part of Virginia and had never lived in the South before. I came to realize I was no t a Republican. At least not the type they raise around here. Confederate flags are proudly flown from the back of pickup trucks, and all things Trump are embraced. These are not my values and I’ve felt lost for so long… that is until I first heard Pete Buttigieg speak back in March of this year. At once I knew that I found my person. He gives me hope and has pulled me out the darkness. My husband and kids have caught the Pete bug too. I’ve never felt this way about politics before and I had never donated to a campaign before Pete. He has a gift and I want everyone to see it and feel what I feel. It’s an overwhelming feeling of hope.

    • I feel what you feel Kelly. I thought, at the start of all of this, that there are so many candidates, and I am not going to latch onto anyone right away, that most of them seem like good enough folks. And then one of them just burst of nowhere into my mind, and it was sort of a ‘love at first speech’ sort of thing. This is not what I expected of myself, at all, but this is what happened to me. He doesn’t seem like just another candidate. He seems like someone special, someone rare, someone that America needs right now.

  • I am an emotional person on certain things, and one of those things is our nation’s future, our children’s future, our climate’s future … things like that. And so I am reading your story Bobbi, and I find I am saying to myself ‘God bless you Bobbi”, and here I can say, as well, direct to you, thank you Bobbi. And thank you for being a teacher, not just to your students, but I hope to many voters as well.

  • I voted for both republicans and democrats, and Pete represent
    something that has been long missing in our politics.

    Unlike most other politicians, when he talks it’s effortless,
    because he is simply being himself and addressing the topic at hand.
    Not trying to portray himself a certain way and score cheap political points.

    He speaks like 8 languages (to some degree), plays multiple musical instruments,
    and shows a real curiosity and dedication to dive into the issues and figure out
    which policies would be best for ALL americans.

    That’s the key part for me: You can clearly see Pete wants to help ALL americans.

    The era of being put in a box is over. It’s no longer left and right.
    It’s right and wrong.
    And Pete is always trying to do the right thing.
    Pete 2020!

    • Love your comment James, because Pete strikes me the same way: “Unlike most other politicians, when he talks it’s effortless, because he is simply being himself and addressing the topic at hand. Not trying to portray himself a certain way and score cheap political points”.

  • After watching Mayor Pete at the CNN town hall, I was moved to find everything I could about him. And the more I found, the more I liked what I heard. For those that are tired of the hate and divisiveness, he leads you to a better place with his “change the channel” message. He is not the typical politician, he is a true public servant and his message is one of hope for all Americans – Democrats, Republicans, Independents. Like he says, “Even if you are not for me, I am for you”.

  • I’m 70 years old, hetero, married for 34 happy years. I’m a political junkie for most of those years. I have NEVER seen or heard a pol like Pete Buttigieg. He is a phenomenon that goes beyond the beyonds. Brilliant, AWARE, emphathetic, COMPASSIONATE, practical, and SPIRITUAL. This man knows about so many things it’s incredible! He is raising our consciousness to a whole new level. I support him wholeheartedly because he gets down to the core of my being, most especially when he talks about the Crisis of Belonging. He has been so open about his personal struggles and has invited his husband to be an integral part of the campaign. They both are lovely men. It’s about time we got some decency after all the mess with Trump. PETE BUTTIGEIG 2020!

    • Love your observations Billie. It gives me a lot of hope. And the feeling, as well, that I am not alone in my respect for this man, and his husband too.

  • Don’t be ashamed that you voted for Trump. We all make unwise decisions. Just keep doing what you’re doing and make up for that mistake. Thank you.

  • So glad to hear you support PETE! My experience is that Pete supporters don’t just “kind of” like Pete. Once you’re on the Pete Train you’re all in and over the top about Pete!

  • Buttigieg is exactly the leader we need in the Oval Office. He is so far above the current leader, it’ll make your head spin. In a good way.

    Bobbi’s story of going from a GOP voter to a Democrat is uplifting. We hear so much about trump and his chanting maga-heads – it’s depressing. This story gives me hope that there are enough people out there who didn’t succumb to the flimflam man’s con to flip the Senate and elect some brilliance and integrity back into the White House. And Pete is THE ONE.

    Bobbi converted to a Democrat.
    One down, a few million to go.

  • Mayor Pete is amazing! I have worked with him and his staff on several community programs…I always left meetings amazed by the fresh ideas…youth, and the ability to secure funding for various programs in a short time leaves me in awe! I keep saying this is what is needed..it is time or this generation to take the reigns!

  • I am so sorry that you cannot see the bias, and the obvious fact Mueller could never have written this report. I was raised democrat, but my Dad would never believe what the Democratic Party stands for today. This president loves this country, we knew him back in the day, and we know him now. The poc bs that the left use to justify globalization is not most of America. Bless your opinion, but I also have right to mine.

    • You do have a right to your opinion, but it is not OPINION that Donald Trump is a pathological liar, who mental health professionals say publicly has narcissistic personality disorder, and who has bragged on video about grabbing women “by the pussy.” If that is the type of moral character you think belongs in the White House, then God have mercy on your soul.

    • You do indeed, and rightly or wrongly we accept that such is your opinion. However, this was an Op Ed on Mayor Pete. Could you, perhaps discuss what you find right (or wrong) in Buttigieg’s candidacy?

  • Thanks for a moving and thoughtful piece. It is good to hear even a former Republican talk about the value of kindness and compassion over cruelty; I had thought those traits gone for good among the GOP.

    I, too, believe in Mayor Pete. My husband believes in Mayor Pete. We feel he has the qualities of, not just a leader, but of a transformative leader, and the calm, soothing, but confident demeanor needed to heal the wounds that Trumpism has torn into the flesh of the nation. We don’t need a President, no matter how brilliant or qualified, who carries with him or her the animosity that is palpable between Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

    We need a wise President, a compassionate President, and a President who can bring us back together.

  • This is refreshing and positive – things we don’t see coming out of DC today. Politics should not be team sports. I’m also making a committment from now on to put country – and all Americans – before party. Let’s go 2020!

  • This is refreshing, Bobbi, especially in this age of demonization of “the other”. Thoughtful, and imho, accurate. While Pete is not “my guy”, I very much admire him for all the qualities mentioned in your and other commenters’ writings. Above all, he is an HONEST candidate.
    And congratulations on your journey, too! May you and your hubby live long and prosper.

  • I like Pete! I may not agree with a few of his positions, but those are minor things in the grand picture and I would be pleased to have him as my President. I miss decency and sanity. #Pete2020!

  • Hi, Bobbi.

    Thanks for this amazing writing. You have captured what has drawn most of us into the Mayor Pete Buttigieg camp. He speaks so effortlessly about every topic. He talks to you rather than at you. After 3 years of such hatefulness and divisiveness. He is a breath of fresh air and just won’t stoop to that. Other candidates are just angry and seem to be more out for revenge on this cruel administration. It certainly isn’t like it isn’t justified. But, personally, I’m over it. I want someone looking out for everyone not just one side out of spite. Nothing good will ever come of that.

    So you know, I was a registered Independent for 15 years because I just couldn’t align with EITHER party. As of 2 months ago I am a registered Democrat so that I can cast my vote for Pete in the primaries.

    • Terri,

      I absolutely agree with you. I was drawn to Pete because he speaks directly. He is a realist, without being negative or pessimistic. When he speaks to people at his gatherings, he actually answers questions instead of deflecting to a prepackaged message like some others. I so appreciate his demeanor.

      Thanks for reading!

  • My heart is happy Bobbi is back in the proverbial political saddle putting her intelligence into words. I am listening.

  • Wow, thanx for your insightful post, hopefully more people will stop and listen to Pete and not those who try to belittle him.

  • This is my story almost exactly. I’m even married to an educator. For the first time ever I’m actually excited about a politician. I just hope that there are enough of us out there to get him chosen as the democratic nominee. Thank you for this article. I am not alone, I belong. And isn’t that the core of his candidacy? Pete 2020!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *