If you’re a term-limited New York City official who wants to maintain a profile in state politics, where all the action currently is, here’s what you might do:
Roll out in quick secession a series of surprise endorsements of legislative candidates, highlighting their willingness to buck the leadership in Albany; offer policy statements and advice about how to run state government, even if it’s entirely unsolicited; and, if you have the means, write a big check to your friends, holding out the possibility that you could write more.
So here’s what Michael Bloomberg’s August 12 looked like.
At 11:32 a.m., while discussing climate change at a press conference in City Hall, Democratic State Senate candidate Simcha Felder’s campaign announced an endorsement from Mr. Bloomberg. A statement from the mayor praised Mr. Felder, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Kevin Parker, for being “an independent thinker.”
At 12:19 p.m., Democratic Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat’s campaign announced an endorsement from Mr. Bloomberg. In a statement released by that campaign, the mayor praised Mr. Espaillat, who his facing a challenge from term-limited City Councilman Miguel Martinez—for supporting environmentally projects and standing up “against entrenched special interests and shortsighted parochial concerns.”
At 1:04 p.m., Democratic State Senate candidate Dan Squadron’s unveiled a Bloomberg endorsement (and accompanying photo). In a statement, Mr. Bloomberg said that Mr. Squadron—a challenger to longtime incumbent Marty Connor—had a record that “is already more impressive than many lifelong legislators.”
It should be pointed out that these endorsements were all, in a way, political freebies in that they did not actually challenge the parties in control of each legislative chamber.
There was no shot, in the course of Mr. Bloomberg’s rapid-fire 90-minute foray into legislative politics, at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who faces two Democratic primary opponents of his own and is blamed by Bloomberg aides for killing plans for congestion pricing.
Nor did the endorsements, all made within contested Democratic primaries, do anything to jeopardize the Republicans’ slim two-seat majority in the State Senate.
But the symbolism was clear enough. Mr. Bloomberg, who has frequently offered public lectures on fiscal stewardship to state leaders, may not challenge those leaders directly, but he is willing to make mischief on a race-by-race basis.
(Democratic State Senate Leader Malcolm Smith, who stands to be most inconvenienced by the mayor’s moves, said, “I am not worried about the mayor’s endorsement. Our plan is on target and moving forward.”)
Gerry O’Brien, a consultant who works with Republicans and Democrats, had the hoped-for take: “Mike Bloomberg still counts—he matters. He’s somebody that has opinions, has thoughts, has ideas, and when he finds candidates of like mind, he’s prepared to support them.”
Democratic State Senator Diane Savino thought somewhat less of the mayor’s motives, noting that by supporting Democratic challengers, he was in fact serving the agenda of the party in power. “For the most part, he likes the status quo in Albany,” she said. “But he might not like everybody in it.”
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said the dramatic timing of the endorsements—in quick succession, after the mayor’s daily press conference was over—was designed mostly to avoid distracting from the policy-based message of the day. (It was about improving the city’s infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change.)
As for whether Mr. Bloomberg, who recently gave $500,000 to the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, planned to use his unlimited financial resources on behalf of his new endorsees, Mr. Loeser said, “Potentially.”