By Mark Hernandez

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg capped off a daylong swing through Northern Nevada on Saturday by becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to file paperwork to participate in Nevada’s caucuses.

Buttigieg, who has surged in the race from a little-known Midwest mayor to one of the top five contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, handed over his paperwork at the Nevada State Democratic Party’s Keep Nevada Blue Dinner at the Grand Sierra Resort, where he pitched his vision for representing the people of the United States and promised to end the drama in Washington D.C. The dinner was also attended by fellow presidential candidate Tom Steyer and U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen.

Though largely a symbolic gesture, the paperwork filing — coupled with Buttigieg’s decision to attend a Democratic Party dinner skipped by most other presidential hopefuls — telegraph his campaign’s recent and intense focus on Nevada, despite being the last of the top-tier candidates to arrive on the ground here. Since June, Buttigieg has brought on 35 staffers in the state and has plans to open 10 offices in the state by mid-October, including in Reno, Carson City, Fallon and Pahrump.

Saturday also marked Buttigieg’s first trip to Northern Nevada and his fourth trip to the Silver State since announcing his candidacy in April.

In the morning, Buttigieg walked around Fifth Street in downtown Reno, where he talked with people who have lived in weekly motels to avoid living on the street. Though often dirty and dilapidated, weekly motels are often the only housing that low-income residents can afford in an increasingly pricey city, and the demolition of many of them in recent years has only exacerbated the city’s housing crisis.

Northern Nevada HOPES, a community health center that offers affordable medical, behavioral, and support services, also hosted Buttigieg for a broader discussion of that housing crisis.

Buttigieg also met with roughly two dozen members of the United Auto Workers union on strike on Saturday at the GM Distribution Center in Northwest Reno to talk about better working conditions. UAW workers have been on strike nationwide since Sep. 16, when they stopped work at 31 GM factories and 21 other facilities across nine states as the union pushes for increases in pay for temporary and less-senior workers, reopen plants and focus production in the United States instead of Mexico.

After meeting with the striking workers, Buttigieg hosted a campaign rally at Sparks High School attended by about 750 people. During his speech, Buttigieg outlined the issues he would tackle as president. His speech was briefly derailed when the power went out because of a storm outside, but he finished speaking with the help of rallygoers who lit the room with their phones.

Buttigieg will return to Nevada on Oct. 2 to participate in a presidential gun safety forum hosted by Gifford and March for Our Lives and attend a roundtable discussion and tour at UMC. He also is slated to return to Las Vegas on Oct. 22 to keynote Battle Born Progress’s annual Celebrate Progress fundraiser.