It was supposed to be a contested, secretive meeting and a turning point in Michael Bloomberg's re-election campaign. But by the time the Manhattan County Republican Committee voted last night to endorse the mayor, it was a non-event.
Bloomberg’s black SUV arrived at the club’s headquarters on 83rd Street shortly after 7 p.m. He hopped out (flanked by a handful of aides) and was greeted by Manhattan Republican chair Jennifer Saul, who kissed him on both cheeks.
Saul had arranged for Bloomberg to speak for about five minutes, and he made no apologies for not endorsing local Republican candidates, telling the Manhattan County Republican Committee, as he has said before, “I am what I am."
He was the only candidate considered, since the other onetime contenders, billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis and former Councilman Tom Ognibene, had stopped actively campaigning. The committee took a voice vote and decided overwhelmingly to endorse Bloomberg.
When Bloomberg began campaigning for the endorsement, the chairs of the Queens and Bronx committees were openly criticizing him, and Saul was staying conspicuously quiet, saying only that she would follow the will of her committee.
Then, after private meetings with Bloomberg’s campaign, the leader of the Bronx Republican Committee, Jay Savino, suddenly said he'd support Bloomberg, too, and even walked back criticism he had aired only days earlier. Savino said at the time that his concerns had been addressed, and that his endorsement was not about the mayor’s deep pockets.
By then, Bloomberg's potential Republican rivals had more or less disappeared. Even before the Queens County organization announced its support of Bloomberg, despite Chairman Phil Ragusa's vocal opposition to the idea, the fix was in.
The vote in Manhattan had been scheduled already, and so it went on.
Bloomberg arrived—with his campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, and a Republican operative, John Haggerty—in his traditional dark suit and blue tie. Saul wore blue jeans and open-toed shoes. After exchanging pleasantries, Bloomberg, Saul and the small group walked into the three-story townhouse.
The vote was, technically, a “closed-door meeting,” meaning no press. But the door to the club remained open, and sounds of applause and laughter could be heard from the sidewalk.