Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is weighing the possibility of launching a third party bid for the White House. While his three terms as mayor of the Big Apple provided him with a formidable national profile, there is still some question about whether his brand has appeal nationally. If Bloomberg does launch a bid, as reports suggest he may do should the major parties coalesce around Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as their nominees, he could prove to be the most viable Independent candidate for president in history.
Here are 10 things you should know about him:
1) He’s REALLY rich: Bloomberg may be best known for the fact that he is the one of the richest people on the planet (ranked eighth in the U.S. and 14th globally). He owns the influential financial data and media company that shares his namesake, Bloomberg LP, and his considerable wealth makes it possible for him to totally self-finance his campaign and marshal the resources to mount a competitive late-season presidential run. He’d be the one candidate in the race whose personal wealth trumps Trump, and there is far less second guessing about the legitimacy of his earning power than there is about the real estate mogul turned GOP front-runner.
2) He’s been a Democrat, Republican and an independent: Before entering the world of politics, Bloomberg had been a lifelong member of the Democratic Party. But when he mounted his first mayoral run in the fall of 2001, he saw that his chances of winning the nomination on the Republican side of the aisle were better so he jumped ship. Buoyed by an endorsement from outgoing Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg eked out a victory in a city that was overwhelmingly Democratic. Eventually Bloomberg bolted the Republican Party, where his social liberalism never fit it in, and he became an independent. Some accused him of cynical political expediency, but in a general election his ideological parity may prove popular.
3) He’s very proactive on guns: Bloomberg has broken with Republican allies in a big way when it comes to the issue of guns. During his time as NYC mayor (he co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which later became Everytown for Gun Safety) and even after he left office he has campaigned aggressively in favor of stricter gun control laws and has financed ads shaming his fellow politicians for stonewalling on the subject. His zero-tolerance policy for handguns on the streets will likely alienate right-wingers but also endear him to Democrats who are turned off by Sanders’ history of ambiguity on the gun issue.
4) He’s a perennial would-be candidate: This is far from the first time that Bloomberg has dispatched pollsters to test the waters for a potential presidential run. In 2008 and 2012, Bloomberg’s name was floated as a possible candidate, and he certainly took steps to weigh his chances. Each time, demographic challenges squandered his hopes and Barack Obama emerged triumphant. This year’s campaign may be the closest he’s ever come to actually getting in, but if he doesn’t it will simply be part of a larger narrative about Bloomberg’s ambitions clashing with the realities of running.
5) He backed controversial police tactics: Although Bloomberg was frequently hailed for presiding over a less racially polarized city than his predecessor, Giuliani, Bloomberg’s police department’s practices were divisive to say the least. The widely criticized “stop and frisk” policy of the NYPD was instituted on Bloomberg’s watch. There were also poorly received crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street protesters and the questionable surveillance of Muslim Americans. These policies would get increased scrutiny in a general election, amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
6) His leadership style rubbed some people the wrong way: While many New Yorkers have hailed Bloomberg for presiding over a city that became cleaner, safer and more prosperous – others despised what they perceived as a dictatorial style, which stifled dissent. Whether if was taking over control of the city’s schools or pushing smokers out of the city’s bars, many New Yorkers believed Bloomberg was guilty of overreach during his mayoralty. That impression was further solidified when he pushed for the passage of an end on term limits, which led him to a third term as mayor. Allegations of a bought election have dogged Bloomberg ever since.
7) He believes climate change is real: Unlike a lot of his former Republican peers, Bloomberg has been consistently strong on the issue of combating climate change. Nearly 10 years ago, he instituted an ambitious plan to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is expected to hit a 30% decrease by 2030. He also spearheaded the planting 1 million trees in the city. And his public health and environmental efforts have been credited with increasing the life expectancy of the average New Yorker. In 2014, he was selected as the United Nations’ first special envoy for cities and climate change, and last year he used his bully pulpit to take 2016 candidates to task for their ignorance on environmental issues.
8) He supports a woman’s right to choose: Bloomberg has said that he believes reproductive choice should be a “fundamental right” for women in America, putting him solidly on the left when it comes to one of the most contentious social issues over the last several decades. And he has put his considerable wealth where is mouth is, donating millions to progressive women’s health organizations. In 2012, he cited Republican Mitt Romney’s anti-abortion stance as a significant factor in his decision to ultimately back President Obama in the general election.
9) He has clashed with labor unions: A part of Bloomberg’s legacy which may appeal to conservatives is his bitter battles with NYC unions. His feuds with the New York Transit Authority led to a high profiles strike which left NYC commuters briefly stranded. And he once unfavorably compared members of the United Federation of Teachers to the NRA. His successor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, decried the fact that when Bloomberg left office he had failed to resolve labor contracts with 152 of the city’s unions.
10) He presided over a huge spike in homelessness: Although the Bloomberg era of New York is usually heralded for its economic growth and cultural cache, the dark underbelly was the pervasiveness of homelessness on the city’s streets. This oft-overlooked population paid the price for skyrocketing income inequality and the lack of affordable housing options. For Bloomberg critics, rising rents, stagnating wages and increasingly gentrified neighborhoods will be the real legacy of his 12 years in office.