What I Learned While Looking for Love at Democratic Campaign Stops

The conventions were supposed to be my deadline for finding a boyfriend/ Last summer, back in the innocent days when campaigns were still conducted in person, I attended a fundraising rally for presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The event was held at an old warehouse in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn — a vast, dark space packed with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Buttigieg fans. Waiting for the candidate to appear, I sipped a Blue Moon and scanned the venue. Most of the crowd were male. Most appeared to be gay.

Yes, I thought to myself, smiling. I like these odds.

I’d first heard about Buttigieg, then the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2018. He and his husband were the subjects of a New York Times “Vows” column I read with admiration and only a little bit of envy. On learning the two men had met on Hinge, a dating app, I’d thrown aside the newspaper and downloaded the app myself.

I was 31, living in New York, and relentlessly, emphatically single. I’d had boyfriends in college and in the years following, but my late twenties had been a wasteland. I’d tried Tinder. I’d tried setups. Nothing had worked.

It was at an Elizabeth Warren event following many depressing Hinge dates later that I’d had an idea: I would go to campaign functions with the explicit purpose of meeting eligible young Democrats. Debate parties would be my mixers. Fundraising events would be my happy hours. My primary motivation, naturally, was to help annihilate the Republican Party — but if such an effort came with ancillary romantic benefits, well, who was I to deny myself the pleasure?

The primary, I figured, would give me the perfect conversational “in.” It would also function as a wonderful filtering device, presenting me only with civic-minded political junkies who cared enough about the fate of the republic to get up and do something. Perhaps best of all, the Democratic convention, then more than a year away, could function as a motivating deadline: If the party could pick a nominee by then, surely I could find a boyfriend within the same time frame.

Choosing a political candidate isn’t so different from finding a mate: We want someone who can spark a feeling of solidarity — all while getting us hot and bothered under the collar.

I started my quest with a series of rallies sponsored by Warren and Buttigieg, my two favored candidates. There in the Williamsburg warehouse, clapping as Buttigieg took the stage, I eyed the crowd around me, considering whom to approach. The man in the clear-frame glasses? The guy in the motorcycle jacket? The pickings were endless.

After Buttigieg’s address, I struck up a conversation with a woman carrying a blue “PETE 2020” sign.

“What did you think of the speech?” I asked.

“It was great!” she said, turning to introduce me to her husband and brother, standing nearby. The brother was a handsome, affable guy with a beard and khaki shorts rolled up at the cuffs.

When he smiled, I smiled back.

After a bit of small talk about Pete, I asked if they wanted to continue the conversation at a neighboring bar. They agreed. There we weighed the relative merits of the then-sprawling Democratic field. I made sure to engage all three of my companions, though really I just wanted to talk to the brother. He seemed sweet and smart and gay. Was he single? I suspected he might be.

When finally we got up to leave, I asked the brother for his number.

Later that night, I sent him a text. He responded right away, proposing we chat again soon. “Doesn’t have to be about Pete,” he said, with what I chose to read as a hint of flirtation.

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