Michael Bloomberg held his first campaign event today, receiving a measured endorsement from Rev. A. R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center, a predominately African-American church in Brooklyn.
Speaking outside the church this morning with supporters holding campaign signs, Bernard was asked by a reporter if it was difficult to endorse the mayor over the likely Democratic opponent, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is African-American.
“I’m confident in Mayor Bloomberg and what he’s done,” Bernard said. “I’m not saying that no one else can do it, but he’s proven his leadership.”
Bernard said he contacted Thompson to let him know of his decision, and told reporters there was “no love lost between us.” He said Thompson “of course was disappointed but he understood and respected my position, the fact that I was candid with him.”
Bloomberg emphasized how he was seeking support from “all New Yorkers” and said, “We don’t, in this city, make those kind of divisions that sadly in some places around the world, they do. New Yorkers work together and that’s why we’ve done well.”
Among the churchgoers who watched the press conference but decided not to stand behind Bernard and Bloomberg was Rudy Washington, a deputy mayor under Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani and the highest-ranking African-American in that administration. Washington told me he may endorse Bloomberg at some later point.
After the event, I asked Bernard about Thompson saying Bloomberg is out of touch and unconcerned with common New Yorkers.
“Well, you know, Bill Thompson has a campaign to run so he has to say those things that will, you know, question the mayor’s relationship with all New Yorkers. But I said this in his re-election the last time, he’s a billionaire. I don’t hold that against him.”
Bernard praised Bloomberg because “he has kept his promises to return to the neighborhoods and understands. He’s got his feet on the ground.”