Mayor Pete is Hollywood's top pick now that Kamala Harris is out of the presidential race

Key Points
  • Among presidential candidates, only Kamala Harris has raised more money than Pete Buttigieg from the entertainment industry.
  • Sharon Stone, Alyssa Milano and Michael J. Fox have all contributed to Buttigieg's campaign.
  • Buttigieg could be poised to benefit now that Harris has dropped out of the race.
Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg responds to a question during a forum held by gun safety organizations the Giffords group and March For Our Lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 2, 2019.
Steve Marcus | Reuters

For all of Sen. Kamala Harris's challenges gaining traction in the 2020 presidential campaign, she had remained the clear favorite in Hollywood. Now that the California Democrat is out of the race, the movie industry may be poised to coalesce around Mayor Pete.

In recent months, actresses Sharon Stone and Alyssa Milano have contributed to Pete Buttigieg's effort to become the Democratic nominee, joining other celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Frances McDormand, who previously maxed out their donations to the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. 

No candidate has raised more money from employees of Comcast, parent of film studios Universal Pictures and DreamWorks (as well as CNBC), and only Harris has brought in more money than Buttigieg from staffers at Disney. In total, Buttigieg has reeled in $971,009 from employees in the television, movie and music industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That's behind Harris, who raised $1.18 million, but way ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's third at $612,679.

Harris said on Tuesday that her "campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue." She had previously canceled a fundraising event in New York, following negative media reports about her struggling organization and the loss last week of a top staffer to Michael Bloomberg's campaign.

While Harris was stuck in the low single digits in most recent polls, Buttigieg has been gaining momentum, particularly in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he's now leading. Buttigieg, who's bidding to become the first openly gay president, has carved out a position as a moderate who can appeal to progressives, in a race where Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have promised dramatic changes to the financial and health-care systems.

Pete Buttigieg on taxing the rich and the future of American capitalism
Pete Buttigieg on taxing the rich and the future of American capitalism

"Look, being gay is part of who I am, and it's part of my story, and it has shaped me in some important ways," Buttigieg told CNBC's John Harwood in an April interview. "It's also just part of my story. It's not all of who I am. And what I hope to do is turn to that story if it helps people understand how I might be able to relate to others with radically different experiences, but certain things in common."

Milano, known for her role in 1980s sitcom "Who's the Boss?" and 1990s drama "Melrose Place," has hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg, as well as for other candidates, and started tweeting glowingly about him earlier this year. She commended his position on gun reform last month, and posted photos of the two of them at an event on Oct. 5, tweeting that she "was inspired by his vision for America."


Bradley Whitford, of "The West Wing" fame, has contributed at least $2,000 to Buttigieg's campaign. According to Variety, he co-hosted a fundraiser for the mayor in May along with Gwyneth Paltrow, with tickets starting at $250 a person. The story referenced other Los Angeles fundraisers on Buttigieg's agenda, including an event in June at the home of screenwriter Ryan Murphy and his husband, the photographer David Miller. Murphy donated $2,800 to Buttigieg in May. 

Buttigieg has also attracted funding from industry executives like James Murdoch, the son of Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and the former CEO of 21st Century Fox. Murdoch contributed the maximum amount to Buttigieg in March, and his wife, Kathryn Murdoch, followed suit two months later, according to CRP. 

At a Vanity Fair Summit in October, James Murdoch said Buttigieg "has the composure, character, thoughtfulness and courage to handle some of the hardest challenges we have," Bloomberg reported

The Buttigieg campaign didn't respond to a request for comment.

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.