Tale of two mayors: Michael Bloomberg boosts San José candidate

When New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg briefly ran for president in 2020, then-San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo became his campaign co-chairman and his first major endorsement in California.

The relationship between the two former mayors has spanned nearly a decade, from Liccardo’s early days at City Hall to Bloomberg now funding his path to Congress.

“That’s where we come back to Liccardo’s ethos,” Larry Gerston, a political analyst and retired San Jose State professor, told San José Spotlight. “That’s where you get to the shady accusations that he’s vulnerable to, the emails, all that stuff, and that’s where Bloomberg’s past comes into play. Are these birds of the same feather?

Gerston said that while the support might not be unusual, any moral issues about Liccardo’s history with Bloomberg would have to come from Liccardo’s opponent: Assemblyman Evan Low. Gerston said Low’s campaign could highlight the alliance and the amount Bloomberg donated. Liccardo’s campaign could argue that he is deviating from political issues.

Liccardo, a former criminal prosecutor raised in Saratoga, got into politics in 2006 by winning the San Jose City Council seat downtown. He won the mayoral race eight years later and served two terms. Bloomberg and his philanthropic efforts emerged in the background, funding the new mayor’s travels and showering the city with multimillion-dollar grants during his administration.

Nine months after taking office, Liccardo applied to go to London for a week in October 2015, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The trip, which cost almost $4,000, was approved unanimously. Liccardo at the time defended his frequent travel, including a trip to Rome, by saying that invitations from the Pope and Bloomberg do not come often. The trip to London was to attend CityLab’s annual conference that explores “urban solutions” to the challenges facing big cities.

Bloomberg Philanthropies funded a trip to New York for Liccardo’s staff two years later for another summit.

Under Liccardo, the city secured a $2.5 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to explore climate solutions and reduce carbon emissions.

Now, nearly a decade after Bloomberg’s interests brought Liccardo to London, the Democratic billionaire is bankrolling his congressional campaign.

On February 7, Bloomberg contributed $500,000 to Neighbors for Results, a super PAC that has been supporting Liccardo’s bid for the 16th Congressional District. He is the super PAC’s largest funder alongside former NetApp CEO Daniel Warmenhoven, who contributed $50,000.

Neighbors for Results has already spent nearly $458,000 to support Liccardo through mailers, text messages and surveys. Neighbors for Results also funneled $102,000 into another super PAC called Count the Vote, which paid for a contentious recount of the congressional race. Liccardo claimed that he was not involved in the recount request, although it came from one of his supporters and was paid for by the fund that backs him.

The recount broke an extraordinary tie between Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian for second place, removing Simitian from the ballot and putting Liccardo in the favorable position of facing a single opponent in November.

Liccardo’s campaign denied coordinating with the super PAC, which is illegal for candidates to do.

“I’m not surprised Bloomberg has been supportive. They have had a history of close collaboration in San José, working together to address climate change, gun violence and improve city services,” Liccardo campaign spokesperson Gil Rubenstein told San José Spotlight.

Rubenstein said the two former mayors met in 2018 at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a year-long municipal leadership training program hosted at Harvard University and sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Liccardo was part of the second group of mayors of the initiative.

Bloomberg could not be reached for comment and Bloomberg Philanthropies did not respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time the two men have shared political alliances.

Days after Liccardo’s presidential pick, Kamala Harris, dropped out of the 2020 race, she turned out in droves to support Bloomberg. Liccardo became Bloomberg’s first major endorser and went on to co-chair his campaign in California, advising on strategy, policy and serving as a surrogate. Liccardo called Bloomberg “brave, innovative and pragmatic.” He even started a campaign event for Bloomberg in January 2020 with wealthy donors in Pleasanton.

“I supported Kamala Harris for the same reason I support Mike Bloomberg and that is because we have the biggest bully in the history of the planet occupying the White House and I want to support those who can take down the bullies.” Liccardo told San José Spotlight at the time.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks at a campaign kickoff event for presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg in January 2020 in Pleasanton. Photo by Nadia López.

But Liccardo’s support for Bloomberg sparked negative reactions from some of his Silicon Valley political colleagues. Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who served on the San Jose City Council with Liccardo, criticized the move and compared Bloomberg to Trump.

“It is wealthy elites like Trump and Bloomberg who have created the oppressive economic state we find ourselves in, where a few have hoarded the wealth and power over the millions struggling to get ahead,” said Kalra, who supported the senator Bernie Sanders for president. .

Bloomberg’s era as mayor of New York City was marred by his support for policing that targets people of color, specifically the “stop and frisk” policy that a federal judge found unconstitutional in 2013. Under that policy, Police officers disproportionately targeted African Americans and Latinos. residents throughout New York City. Bloomberg, who was previously a Republican and supported Republican Meg Whitman’s bid for California governor against Jerry Brown in 2010, later apologized for the politics. Liccardo said he believes the apology was genuine.

The three-term mayor of New York dropped out of the presidential race in March 2020, after reportedly spending more than $1 billion of his own money on the four-month campaign for the White House. Licardo later endorsed President Joe Biden.

Bloomberg became the target of a #MeToo controversy after facing allegations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and accusations that his companies are hostile workplaces for women. The women reportedly signed confidentiality agreements. Liccardo supported Bloomberg despite the scandal that was part of a series of criticisms she faced on the national debate stage.

“As Democrats, we have to keep our eye on the prize,” Liccardo said at the time. “There is room for very healthy debate on policy and background issues, but the guy we have to defeat is Donald Trump, or all is lost.”

Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on X, formerly known as Twitter. Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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