The third article in the 7/6/07 Bloomberg “hat trick.” An interesting intersection, and quite a lot of action about a non-candidate. Must be a slow news week…
July 6, 2007
Bloomberg Says He Will Support State G.O.P.
At the same time that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been traveling the country in recent weeks denouncing partisan politics, he has been quietly sending a very different message to the state’s Republican Party: I will continue to support the G.O.P. team.
On June 19, shortly before Mr. Bloomberg announced that he was leaving the Republican Party, he telephoned the state’s most powerful Republican, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader.
The mayor wanted Mr. Bruno to know the announcement was coming. But Mr. Bloomberg, a major contributor to New York Republicans, also sought to reassure the majority leader that despite the change, he would still back Mr. Bruno and his Republican colleagues in the Senate.
“He will support us now, and as we go forward,” Mr. Bruno said, describing the conversation. “His support is his support.”
The call to Mr. Bruno was one of several conversations Mr. Bloomberg has had with Republicans in New York in recent weeks pledging his political support.
And it underscores the tricky territory the mayor has landed in as he positions himself as a newly declared independent.
Mr. Bloomberg is seeking to raise his national profile for what he calls his nonpartisan approach to problem-solving, perhaps in preparation for a presidential bid. But at the same time, he appears determined to maintain his strong ties to Republican leaders in Albany as they try to hang on to their slim majority in the Senate, which they have controlled for more than 40 years.
Mr. Bloomberg’s support for Republican candidates is critical; the mayor has been the biggest individual donor to Senate Republicans, according to state campaign finance records, giving $575,000 since October. He also gave the New York State Republican Committee $175,000 in the same period. (During that time, by contrast, he did not donate to any Democrats in the Legislature.)
But Mr. Bloomberg’s involvement in a high-profile partisan fight and his continued alliance with Mr. Bruno could undermine the independent image he is seeking to promote. Republicans have a two-seat margin in the 62-member Senate, and the state Democratic Party, led by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, is planning an all-out effort to take back the chamber. Democrats have already begun recruiting candidates to run against at least a half-dozen Republican senators.
Senator Frank Padavan, a Queens Republican, among those being marked for defeat by the Democrats, said the mayor called him just days ago, after the legislative session in Albany ended.
Mr. Padavan said he received critical backing in his last re-election battle from Mr. Bloomberg, who praised the senator in letters and recorded telephone messages. “Both were enormously helpful in a difficult election,” said Mr. Padavan. In their conversation, Mr. Bloomberg told Mr. Padavan he would be there again for him.
Asked about Mr. Bloomberg’s support for state Republicans yesterday, Stu Loeser, a Bloomberg spokesman, said, “Mayor Bloomberg has always said he’ll support those who support New York City. Time after time over the last six years, the State Senate has been extraordinarily helpful to us.”
Mr. Loeser said that the mayor’s efforts were not inconsistent with his stance as an independent politician. Mr. Bloomberg made a handful of donations to Democrats along with contributions to Republicans in federal races last year. “He has always supported people on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Loeser said.
People familiar with the relationship between Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Bruno say the mayor views the Senate Republican majority as an important ally that has sided with City Hall on a host of crucial matters that it may have been inclined to oppose, including the mayor’s call for tougher penalties for people convicted of carrying loaded illegal handguns.
Mr. Bloomberg’s announcement that he was registering as an independent set off a storm of political interest last month and intensified speculation that he will run for president. Mr. Bloomberg has suggested in his recent speeches that the current crop of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are “pandering” and that Washington is mired in partisan gridlock.
The mayor has said that he does not intend to run, but his aides have said he will travel the country with his message stressing nonpartisan solutions.
Mr. Bloomberg’s support of Senate Republicans is particularly galling to Democrats because the party regards capturing the Senate, the last statewide base of Republican power in New York, as a top political priority in the 2008 elections. Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, the deputy Democratic leader in the Senate, criticized Mr. Bloomberg as shortsighted. “He’s not using his money wisely,” he said. “We’ve picked up five seats in the last two election cycles even though the mayor continues to be the Republican majority’s major benefactor.”
For their part, Republicans are grateful for any support at a time when their party is rudderless and struggling to fill a leadership vacuum created by the departure of George E. Pataki, Mr. Spitzer’s Republican predecessor, who served three terms before leaving office at the end of last year.
Mr. Bloomberg’s willingness to put his money or name into the battle for the Senate could be decisive, particularly in the heavily Democratic New York City region, where several Republican senators are considered vulnerable. “For the city region, all you have to do is look at Bloomberg’s approval numbers,” said John Googas, Senator Padavan’s chief of staff. “To have somebody that popular strongly endorsing your candidacy is crucial in a contested race.”
Mr. Bloomberg’s overtures have not been limited to the State Senate. James N. Tedisco, the Republican leader in the Assembly, said he met with Mr. Bloomberg for about 30 minutes in his Albany office in late May and came away confident that he had a strong ally.
He said that Mr. Bloomberg, who last year donated $50,000 to the Assembly Republicans’ campaign committee, had given no inkling that he was about to leave the party. Rather, he said, the mayor made it clear that he would continue supporting the Republican caucus in the Assembly.
“We’re disappointed he’s not a Republican,” Mr. Tedisco said. But, he added, “our feeling is that he’s going to still support many parts of the party and we will still have a friendship and a relationship.”
If you’re looking for simple answers to complex questions; if you’re looking for simple solutions to the 21st (post-American) century; if you’re yearning for an easily categorized person to set us straight… keep looking.
If New York State politics is anything like the state politics where Mudge hangs his hat, party labels do not begin to do justice to what makes the state work (or not!).
Reflecting on that reality keeps me thinking about Michael Bloomberg as presidential caliber for another day.
So, did you like the hat trick?
It’s it for now. Thanks,