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Buttigieg says economy isn’t working for all, despite Colorado’s low unemployment

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg spoke to Next about immigration, vaccinations, the economy and whether he's ready to be the next president.

DENVER — Forgive presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for the geographical faux paus. He flew across the Rockies and into Denver at night for a 9:30 p.m. rally. He’d been campaigning in Nevada, where the limited water they have flows toward the Pacific.

Addressing a packed crowd of thousands in a hotel convention center on the Eastern flank of the Rockies, Buttigieg invited them to imagine a scene.

“It is the image of what it will feel like the first time the sun comes up over the Rockies and Donald Trump is no longer the President of the United States,” Buttigieg said.

The crowd roared, completely untroubled by the fact that Denver’s morning sun rises over the plains.

RELATED: Pete Buttigieg holds town hall in Denver after Nevada Caucus

Before leaving Nevada, Buttigieg took sharp aim at Democratic frontrunner Senator Bernie Sanders.

Democrats, Buttigieg said, need “a nominee who actually gives a damn” about winning other races down the ballot from the presidential contest.

Close to 11 p.m. on Saturday night, Buttigieg sat down for an interview for Next with Kyle Clark.

Asked whether he believes Sanders truly does not care if other Democrats lose if he’s the nominee, Buttigieg wouldn’t go that far.

“Sen. Sanders and his followers have been very dismissive of the concerns of the very Democrats we need to return to office,” Buttigieg said. “I think we need someone at the top of the ticket who will actively ask those who are in tough races what we can do that could help or hurt them.”

Buttigieg’s stump speech stresses that gains on Wall Street don’t always translate to wage growth for workers. But the Democratic nominee will have to make that argument in Colorado, which has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in America.

“For far too many Americans, one job is not enough,” Buttigieg said. “Even those with jobs are not finding their wages are not keeping up with the cost of health care, the cost of saving for retirement, the cost of education.”

Buttigieg is an Afghanistan veteran whose only elected office has been as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana – a city roughly the size of Longmont, Colorado.

Questions of whether a candidate his age, 38, and of his experience level is prepared to be President have been raised throughout the campaign.

“There’s no office like the Presidency. There’s also no office like Mayor,” Buttigieg said. “Part of my point is to bring different voices to Washington.”

He stressed that it would be incumbent upon him to build a strong and capable team as President.

Next asked Buttigieg about Colorado’s low vaccination rate and debate over whether to make it more difficult to opt-out of vaccinations.

A Buttigieg staffer told Buzzfeed News in 2019 that Buttigieg supported personal exemptions to vaccination, but the campaign later clarified that he only supports medical exemptions.

When asked, Buttigieg was blunt.

“I believe that children should be vaccinated because it saves lives,” he said.

Next also asked Buttigieg about the estimated 200,000 people who live in Colorado who are in the United States illegally. It’s a population larger than every city except Denver, Aurora, and Colorado Springs.

“I’m focused on the creation of a path to citizenship for the undocumented who have been living and working and paying their taxes but have no way to get their status cleared up,” Buttigieg said.

He said he would similarly prioritize families that had been separated and veterans without citizenship. He declined to say whether a conviction for a violent crime should prevent someone here illegally from becoming an American citizen.

“I think a violent crime conviction should be handled by our criminal courts. We keep trying to push that into our immigration conversation, but this is something that needs to be handled criminally,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg is the fifth Democratic presidential candidate to agree to a one-on-one conversation on Next with Kyle Clark.

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RELATED: Bernie Sanders says Colorado’s oil and gas workers will change jobs

All eight Democratic candidates currently showing up in polling, as well as President Trump, have been invited on Next.

WATCH: 1-on-1 with Pete Buttigieg

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