As Buttigieg Builds His Campaign, Gay Donors Provide the Foundation

Much of his support, especially from his L.G.B.T. backers, comes from Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and other industries that could raise awkward questions for a candidate who presents himself as deeply connected to the concerns of working-class Middle America. Other candidates, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have shunned the kind of fund-raising soirees where captains of industry mingle with A-list celebrities. Mr. Buttigieg is leaning into them.

“There are no pink dollar bills,” said Tom Sheridan, a Washington lobbyist who works on progressive causes and is helping the Buttigieg campaign raise money. “So when people start asking, ‘Where is the green coming from?’ that will be interesting.”

Mr. Buttigieg’s advisers are sensitive to this: Even before they announced the lobbyist ban, they had shot down proposals for having fund-raisers at the homes of lobbyists and in corporate offices. The job title of his finance director, Anthony Mercurio, is stripped of any obvious reference to fund-raising: national investment director.

The experience of seeing a gay man suddenly emerge as a viable candidate has led to conflicted emotions among some L.G.B.T. donors who had already decided to support other Democrats like Mr. Biden — who, many remember, endorsed same-sex marriage before his former boss, Mr. Obama.

Jon Cooper, a Democrat in New York who bundles contributions from friends and associates, said: “I’m with Joe. I love Joe. I really think he’ll be the strongest candidate.” But he admitted to feeling torn. “Part of me, as a gay man, will regret sitting out the first campaign by an openly gay man” for the Democratic nomination, he said.

Henry R. Muñoz III, who as the national finance director of the Democratic National Committee is officially neutral in the race, said his husband had been “entranced” after seeing Mr. Buttigieg in San Francisco recently, though he noted that many gay Democrats had allegiances to other candidates. He noted that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York had championed ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — and that Mr. Biden had officiated at his own wedding.


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