Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could find support from LGBT voters if he enters the 2016 presidential race — but even those who say they’d consider backing him maintain that scenario is a big “if.”
As first reported by The New York Times, Bloomberg, who served as mayor of New York City for three terms, has instructed his staff to draw up plans for a potential third-party run in the general election.
According to the Times, Bloomberg’s conditions for entering the race would require Republicans to nominate Donald Trump or Ted Cruz and Democrats to nominate Bernard Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton.
Bloomberg, a billionaire businessperson and philanthropist who identifies as an independent, would be willing to spend at least $1 billion on his run and has set a deadline for making a final decision in early March, the Times reported.
Should he enter the race, some LGBT voters might be tempted to consider Bloomberg, given his strong support for marriage equality.
Mark Glaze, who’s gay and formerly worked as an adviser to Bloomberg, said the former mayor has a “terrific record” on LGBT rights and pointed to his effort to legalize same-sex marriage in New York.
“He went to Albany and essentially told Republicans that if they can be with him on marriage, he would be with them regardless of their position on other issues,” Glaze said. “He was almost single-handedly responsible for getting Republican support for marriage in New York.”
Glaze said the marriage issue was important to Bloomberg because the former mayor “believes in civil rights” and letting people make their own choices.
Years before Hillary Clinton came out for same-sex marriage in 2013, Bloomberg invested significant political capital in pursuing marriage equality and helped push legislation to make it the law in New York.
In 2011, Bloomberg delivered a speech at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art urging swift passage of the marriage bill pending in the New York Legislature.
“So the question really is: So, why now?” Bloomberg said. “Because this is our time to stand up for equality. This is our time to conquer the next frontier of freedom. This is our time to be as bold and brave as the pioneers who came before us. And this is our time to lead the American journey forward.”
In 2010, Bloomberg defended D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty against those who said he shouldn’t be re-elected because he signed marriage equality into law. (Fenty would ultimately lose to former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, a fellow supporter of same-sex marriage.)
“They have a right to believe what they want to believe,” Bloomberg said of same-sex marriage opponents. “But just as with religious freedom, I do not believe it’s the government’s business to get involved in family lives, particularly when no one gets hurt. And I think you should have a right to marry anybody you want, love anybody you want.”
Bloomberg’s advocacy for same-sex marriage wasn’t limited to New York. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, he donated $250,000 to pass marriage equality at the ballot in Maryland in 2012. That same year, he also blasted passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One, which prohibited same-sex marriage, during a commencement address at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
“Each and every generation has removed some barrier to full participation in the American dream,” Bloomberg said. “I would argue last week’s referendum banning same-sex marriage shows just how much more work needs to be done to ensure freedom and equality for all people.”
When the Defense of Marriage Act was before the Supreme Court in 2013, Bloomberg joined then-New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in filing a brief urging justices to rule against the law.
In 2012, Bloomberg, in an op-ed endorsing President Obama, cited the Democrat’s newfound support for same-sex marriage as a reason to back him for re-election.
“The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America,” he wrote in a column posted to his website. “One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.”
On transgender rights, Bloomberg’s crowning achievement involved signing a measure in 2002 that added gender identity to New York City’s human rights law.
Pauline Park, a transgender advocate who’s chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy, said nonetheless Bloomberg’s record “is actually quite bad” on transgender issues.
“True, he signed the transgender rights bill into law in 2002, but only after hesitation and only because we had gotten it passed by 45-5, and he knew we could get the Council to override his veto if he vetoed it,” Park said. “Bloomberg balked at implementation guidelines for the law and vetoed the Dignity in All Schools Act, an anti-bullying bill passed by the Council in 2004, and then blocked implementation of DASA by the Department of Education when the Council enacted it over his veto.”
Park faulted Bloomberg for having the New York Police Department escalate its “stop-and-frisk policy” and use of condoms as criminal evidence of sex work, which she said endangered transgender sex workers, particularly transgender women of color.
“So in general, other than signing the transgender rights bill into law, Bloomberg had a very negative impact on the lives of transgender New Yorkers,” Park said. “I would never support Bloomberg for president or for any other office.”
If Bloomberg enters the presidential race, he would face a lot of work in catching up to the general election candidates. A poll published by Morning Consult on Tuesday found Bloomberg would receive 12 percent of the vote in a hypothetical match-up with him, Sanders and Trump. Sanders would get 35 percent of the vote in this scenario, Trump would get 34 percent and the remaining 19 percent were undecided.
If Cruz were the Republican nominee and Sanders were the Democratic nominee, Bloomberg would still receive 12 percent of the vote and Sanders would receive 35 percent, but Cruz would get 25 percent of the vote and an equal 25 percent would be undecided.
Glaze, who now works as an adviser for Clinton on gun issues, said he thinks some LGBT people would switch allegiances to Bloomberg if he entered, but noted the Times reported that situation would only happen if Clinton were out of the race.
“I think people are either committed for the most part to Hillary Clinton and my guess is that they would probably stick with her,” Glaze said. “My understanding also is that the mayor would only jump in if Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were the nominees, and I frankly think that is unlikely.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, a gay independent who has endorsed Clinton, said he would back Bloomberg if she loses the Democratic nomination, but doesn’t see that happening.
“In the political fantasy game of a hypothetical Trump versus Sanders race, then I would wholeheartedly support Bloomberg’s entrance into that race, but that’s not going to happen,” LaSalvia said. “Mike Bloomberg is a very smart man, and he’s not going to run unless the race sets up perfectly for him, and I think the chances of that happening are very slim.”