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Pete Buttigieg picks up endorsement of St. Petersburg lawmaker

State rep. Ben Diamond: Mayor Pete is ‘the type of leader that can really bring our country together’

Pete Buttigieg, the Indiana mayor running for president, has picked up his second endorsement of a notable Tampa Bay area politician.

State Rep. Ben Diamond is backing Buttigieg over the rest of the crowded Democratic field, he told the Tampa Bay Times, in hopes the millennial leader can bring a “new generation of American leadership."

Diamond will join Buttigieg for an event in Miami later Thursday.

“The more I’ve listened to Pete, the more I’m convinced he’s the right candidate for this moment,” Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat, said, “and the type of leader that can really bring our country together in this incredibly polarized and difficult time we’re in.”

Diamond is an ascending Democrat in Florida politics who is slotted to take over as the House minority party leader in 2022. His endorsement gives Buttigieg progressive support on both sides of the bay; Former Tampa state senator Sean Shaw had previously endorsed Buttigieg.

The South Bend, Ind., mayor’s popularity is on the rise in Iowa with less than three months until the state holds the country’s first nominating contest. Real Clear Politics, which aggregates and averages polls, estimates Buttigieg is now neck and neck with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren there, and slightly ahead of former vice president Joe Biden, closing a double-digit gap from two months ago.

Buttigieg and Warren have emerged as not only front runners in Iowa, but rivals, too, with competing visions for the direction of the party and country. While Warren has galvanized progressives rallying for structural change, Buttigieg has campaigned as a unifying, fresh voice.

For example, Buttigieg has criticized Warren’s Medicare for All proposal as expensive and polarizing. His healthcare plan would continue private health insurance but also allow anyone to buy government health insurance, known as the public option.

“All these beautiful proposals we all put forward, their impact is kind of multiplied by zero if you can’t actually get it through Congress, and it’s one of the reasons why I do favor the approach that I have,” Buttigieg recently told NPR.

Diamond said Buttigieg’s realism appeals to him as a lawmaker who understands political realities.

“We’re all wrestling with where we would like to be versus what is possible,” Diamond said. “A responsible candidate puts forth plans for what we can actually do. That’s where I think this campaign has landed.”

Buttigieg’s Iowa bounce has not yet traveled to Florida. His support is in the single-digits, behind Biden, Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Florida’s primary is March 17.