Long-shot campaigns have never fazed Malcolm Lazin. He was a 33-year-old Republican when he ran for district attorney of heavily Democratic Philadelphia. His wife managed his campaign, a losing effort.

Now Lazin is a part-time Santa Fe resident, 76 years old, and executive director of an international advocacy organization for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

He bolted the Republican Party after Donald Trump was elected president. Defeating Trump is one of Lazin’s goals for 2020. And Lazin believes he has the ideal contender.

He is supporting Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind. Lazin calls Buttigieg, 37, a candidate who could lead a political breakthrough, just as John F. Kennedy did in 1960.

“The conventional thinking was that Kennedy couldn’t win because the country had never had a Catholic as president,” Lazin said. “He proved that thinking to be wrong.”

Buttigieg hears plenty of the same pessimism because he is gay.

Lazin tunes out naysayers. He organized a private fundraiser for Buttigieg in Santa Fe and is planning another in Sarasota, Fla., Lazin’s winter home.

Lazin says he’s convinced Buttigieg has the talent to surprise much of the country by winning the Democratic nomination and ousting Trump.

Buttigieg’s experience in government is thin. He was mayor for eight years of a city that is not much larger than Santa Fe.

But his résumé is gold-plated. Buttigieg is a Rhodes scholar who served six years in the Navy Reserve and a six-month deployment in Afghanistan.

He is polling well in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that have a presidential caucus or primary in early February.

“He certainly will come out of the chute strong,” Lazin said.

The test for Buttigieg will be whether he can sustain his momentum as primaries shift to the Deep South.

Few had heard of Buttigieg last January when he announced he was considering a campaign for president. Already he’s outlasted candidates who began the race with a higher profile. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke quit before the new year, unable to connect with voters or raise money.

Still, it’s difficult to imagine Buttigieg winning the nomination. He would be an underdog to carry his home state of Indiana against Trump.

Then there’s the question of whether the former mayor of South Bend, population of 101,000, could catch fire with voters in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Virginia and Florida. Trump took five of those seven states in 2016, his losses coming in Virginia and Minnesota.

Lousy odds have never mattered to Lazin. Democrats had a 7-2 registration advantage when he ran for district attorney against Democrat Ed Rendell. Rendell went on to become mayor of Philadelphia and a two-term governor of Pennsylvania.

Lazin, young and idealistic, had headed the Pennsylvania Crime Commission in a state thick with illicit deal-making. He campaigned as a reformer, expecting his opponent to be the sitting district attorney of Philadelphia, Democrat F. Emmett Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick’s office faced complaints of corruption. A recent movie, The Irishman, even depicts Fitzpatrick attending a party for labor leader Jimmy Hoffa that teemed with gangsters.

But Rendell upset Fitzpatrick in the primary. This left Lazin without a controversial foe to target in the general election.

After his defeat, Lazin became a riverfront developer. He also founded PrideFest Philadelphia, a celebration of the city’s gay and lesbian residents.

Lazin last year attended a fundraiser in Philadelphia for Buttigieg. Lazin met Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten, and mentioned that he lived in Santa Fe.

“Chasten’s eyes just lit up. New Mexico is very special to Pete,” Lazin said. “His mother grew up in part in Santa Fe, and his parents taught at New Mexico State University.”

Lazin held a fundraiser for Buttigieg in Santa Fe, and the candidate impressed him with his range of knowledge.

“He’s young but wise, as you might expect of the only child of two professors. He’s also even-keeled and doesn’t make mistakes” while campaigning, Lazin said.

Of course, Buttigieg has yet to face the kind of scrutiny a presidential front-runner receives. Lazin says Buttigieg can handle the pressure if he makes it deep into the primaries.

Democrats have another worry. The party splintered in 2016 after Hillary Clinton received the nomination over Bernie Sanders. Will they close ranks this time?

Lazin predicts unity. Having quit the Republican Party because of a president he cannot abide, he has a clear outlook for 2020.

If it can’t be Buttigieg, let it be anyone but Trump.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

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(11) comments

Stefanie Beninato

Sounds like the Prince may have a touch of homophobia. What surprised me is that Buttigieg was in the Naval Reserves. He did not enlist in the regular Navy and spend two years consistently giving his time, energy and intellect to a military career. No doubt Mayor Pete got paid to be a week-end warrior once a month and then his unit got called up---or did he volunteer to go into a war zone?

Prince Michael Jauregui

Ms. Beninato, a Phobia of any type would require an extreme or

irrational fear. Be sure, I'm largely incapable of Fear.

Nonetheless, I was simply acknowledging Buttigieg own seemingly

endless exploitation of his own "Lifestyle Choice", as opposed to anything

truly substantial to the Greater Good of our irreparably divided and diminishing

nation. Besides, to paraphrase Jazz legend T.S. Monk:

Talking about your Sexuality, is like dancing to Architecture.

Mike Johnson

"Erstwhile" Republican you say??? Sounds like a dinosaur that admired the "country club" Republicans of the '50s and '60s, like Nelson Rockefeller. I wonder if this guy is the rich donor that has the "wine cave" old Liz warned us about. Regardless, if he wants anyone but Trump, and implies he will vote for a socialist to get there, he was never a real Republican, just another typical RINO.

Nicoletta Munroe

Mayor Pete brings a measured confidence to the presidential race that emerges from his roots in academia. He polls well with a demographic that is well educated, in a class with Elizabeth Warren. This man will be a great senator in the state of Indiana some day. His fine intellect, however, requires a high level law degree.

Khal Spencer

I've known more than a few academics who did not instill measured confidence in their abilities as lawmakers or executives. And no, he doesn't need a law degree.

Chris Mechels

Why waste ink on this dude, when we have so many local problems? Because its safer??

Khal Spencer

Because there is a Presidential election coming up? Because virtually every letter that Jan and Inez print is a polemic against Donald Trump from yet another reader? At least Milan is fun to read, rather than the frothing Pythonesque letters to the editor.

Khal Spencer

It would have been nice to have Pete a little more accessible when he was here in Fanta Se. I thought about attending the highbrow event but both me and a good friend who is quite progressive were a little nauseated at the idea that to get in the door would cost more money than a lot of folks in Santa Fe take home in a week. So much for Dems being the party of the people...

Mike Johnson

Well said, when I got my invite I thought the same thing. This guy is just another typical money-grubbing politician out for himself and not the people. His distinction is he is a young, naive, and totally inexperienced one.......

Richard Reinders

If Mayor Pete was the nominee or not the Democrats are so divided they would not be able to muster enough votes. I also have a sneaky suspicion that Pete does not believe all he says and is just trying to get votes from at least 2 or 3 of the Democratic splintered parties, so I see a lack of sincerity.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Well beyond Malcom Lazin's grandiose idealism, stands

the firm, immutable Truth. Other than his unabashed Homosexuality, -and his

big-money homosexual supporters- Pete Buttigieg offers absolutely nothing

which separates him from any other small-town mayor. Be sure, broad and vague ideas, coupled with zero new or innovative policies is the standard for vapid, power-hungry Politicians - and their likeminded supporters.

Comparing Buttigieg to one of the most effective patriots in U.S. History (See: JFK),

is a sickening insult to the much-loved, albeit flawed, president.

On a more personal note: Nearly a decade ago, a Political-party emissary casually

asked if I would ever be interested in a Vice-President position.

My unhesitating reply?

"I could never be Vice-anything."

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