Will UW-Eau Claire Grad Be the First First Gentleman?

Tom Giffey

Chasten Buttigieg (left) on the cover of TIME Magazine (May 13) with husband and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg.
Chasten Buttigieg (left) on the cover of TIME Magazine (May 13) with husband and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg.

America’s potential first first gentleman is a Blugold.

Chasten Buttigieg – husband of Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (if you’re curious, it’s pronounced “Boot-edge-edge”) – graduated from UW-Eau Claire in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts. His husband, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has been moving toward the top of a crowded field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination that includes well-known political veterans like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. But Pete Buttigieg has made a big splash in recent weeks, drawing attention both for his policy proposals and personal story: Harvard and Oxford graduate, Afghan War veteran, millennial mayor, and now the first prominent gay presidential candidate in U.S. history.

Chasten (that’s “Chas-Ten”), 29, has been right beside “Mayor Pete,” literally and figuratively, sharing the podium with him when he officially launched his candidate April 14 and posing with him for the cover of the latest issue of Time Magazine.

“Chasten’s humor and openness have been his defining features since the national spotlight found him and ‘Mayor Pete’ earlier this year,” Ellen McCarthy wrote in a recent Washington Post profile article. “It has made him a force on Twitter, where he has more than 300,000 followers, and a not-so-secret public-relations weapon for his husband.”

Chasten and Pete Buttigieg meeting former US President Jimmy Carter last year. (Image: Twitter)
Chasten and Pete Buttigieg meeting former US President Jimmy Carter last year. (Image: Twitter)

The former Chasten Glenzman grew up in a working-class family in Traverse City, Michigan. According to the Washington Post profile, he loved theater and struggled with his sexuality as an adolescent, at one point moving out of the house and sleeping in his car. He later reconciled with his parents. “Eventually, they would proudly walk him down the aisle at his wedding to another man,” the Post noted.

Chasten and Pete married in June 2018 at an Anglican Church in South Bend, Indiana. They had met in 2015 through a dating app. The previous year, Chasten had graduated from UW-Eau Claire, where he studied theatre arts and global studies. After graduation, he moved to Milwaukee, where he worked at a youth theater academy and at Starbucks. Later, according to the Indianapolis Star, he earned a master’s degree at DePaul University in Chicago before teaching at a Montessori school in South Bend.

These days, Chasten is spending his days on the campaign trail, literally and digitally. As Elle magazine noted in March, “Chasten Buttigieg’s Relentlessly Cheery Twitter Is the Best Thing to Come Out of the 2020 Election.” Chasten’s timeline is filled with pictures of the couple’s rescue dogs (Buddy and Truman), “Game of Thrones” memes, and musings about the bizarre side of political/Internet fame. A sample tweet: “This new exposure can be very weird, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to teenagers taking pictures of me and then running away giggling when I look up and see them pointing their phones at me. This is why I can no longer smell deodorants at Target. They’re always watching.”

However, as the Washington Post noted, “it’s a pressure-filled role, even for a former drama kid. ‘There’s so much more on the line than, “Man, I don’t want to forget a line and mess up the show,” ’ Chasten says. ‘It’s like, “Oh, I don’t want to say the wrong thing and ruin my husband’s political career.” ’ ”

In the coming 18 months, that pressure will undoubtedly mount, but that career could take the couple all the way to the White House.

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