Mayor Muriel Bowser endorses Mike Bloomberg for president. Credit: Mitch Ryals

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The only candidate who can defeat Donald Trump in November, according to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, is Mike Bloomberg.

Bowser announced her endorsement of the ex-Republican and former mayor of New York City Thursday morning and appeared with Bloomberg at an event on H Street NE this afternoon to celebrate the news. Bowser touted Bloomberg’s support of statehood for D.C., gun control laws, and affordable housing.

“I’ve known Mike for many years, and I know first hand his commitment to making cities stronger, even more prosperous, and more inclusive,” Bowser proclaimed this afternoon. Her predecessor and political mentor, Adrian Fenty, emulated Bloomberg and some of his strategies during his mayoral term.

Shortly before Bloomberg announced his candidacy in November, he conveniently apologized for implementing stop and frisk, the controversial and unconstitutional policing tactic that was a major piece of his strategy to combat crime and resulted in the disproportionate stopping of black and Latinx people in the city. Bloomberg had defended the strategy as recently as January 2019, and many saw his apology, which came weeks prior to his entry in Democratic primary as politically expedient and disingenuous. Bowser, however, is buying it.

“I’ve had that conversation with Mike, and I understand the regret that he has expressed,” she said during a news conference this afternoon. “I also understand being the mayor of a big city and making sure your city is safe. I appreciate that he has acknowledged that he should have looked at the numbers more closely and made some changes sooner.”

During the same news conference, Bloomberg repeated his apology, and in the same breath implied that stop and frisk was an effective strategy for reducing crime. 

“The intent was to reduce crime,” he said. “And I’m happy to say the murder rate went down from 650 to 330.”

But there’s not much evidence to suggest that stop-and-frisk policing actually reduced crime. New York largely abandoned the practice and crime continued to fall. 

Bowser has had her own issues with stop and frisk. It took a lawsuit from the ACLU of D.C. for the city to release data on police stops. The Metropolitan Police Department’s initial report, released last September, showed that out of all the police stops during two-month span, African Americans were stopped far more frequently than any other racial group.

Bloomberg focused most of his statements during the event on affordable housing—a major priority for Bowser.

He announced a plan that he says will address the country’s housing crisis. Of particular interest for Bowser was Bloomberg’s promise to provide housing vouchers “to all Americans at or below 30 percent of the area median income.” 

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“If the federal government will be our partner in that, cities can focus on how we can get the types of units built that we need to get built,” Bowser said. “And more people will be able to afford to live in our cities.”

Charles Wilson, the chair of the local Democratic party, was among the politicos at the event. He wasn’t surprised to hear Bowser’s support for Bloomberg, but, he tells LL, it gave him a bit of pause.

“I think it gives any proud Democrat pause,” he said. “I think I’m just looking forward to what he has to say and people will be able to make their own decisions going forward.”

He later clarified that he understands why Bowser would support Bloomberg, given their past relationship. Wilson said he hasn’t yet decided which Democratic candidate he supports.

Other than Bowser, only a few local pols have voiced any preference for president so far. Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau and At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman both support Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh was an early supporter of Sen. Kamala Harrisas was Attorney General Karl Racine, but now she’s trying to decide between Bloomberg, Joe Biden, or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, she tells LL.

Wouldn’t it be great if had Bloomberg–Klobuchar, or Biden–Klobuchar ticket,” Cheh says, despite her daughters’ insistence that she vote for Sen Bernie Sanders.

“I tend to be more practical oriented and a problem solver,” she says. “I resist sometimes, something overly ideological, because when you’re trying to figure out the best way to go, you shouldn’t have preconceived notions that force you down a particular path. And all three have a practical instinct.”

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says he hasn’t sorted out who he will support, but he likes Bloomberg for his experience as an executive in the public and private sectors. Biden has similar experience as vice president, Mendelson notes, “though they do say the VP doesn’t do anything.”

“Or Buttageg, Buddagig, Mayor Pete,” he says. “He’s got administrative experience. He’s also a good spokesman. I’m impressed with how he’s able to address issues.” 

Which issues?

“Any of ’em. You throw questions at him, and his answers are just impressive,” the chairman says.

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie doesn’t have a preferred candidate, but is evaluating them based on their support for issues that impact D.C. residents, such as quality education, affordable housing, economic opportunities, and statehood.

“I am, however, disappointed in the lack of diversity in the top tier of remaining candidates,” he adds in an email.

Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd says he is focused on his own race and hasn’t had time to think about which presidential candidate he prefers.

“I’m focused on Ward 4,” he says. “We have a big Democratic primary in four months. That’s Brandon Todd’s singular focus.”

Councilmembers Vince Gray, of Ward 7, and Charles Allen, of Ward 6, haven’t made up their minds either.

Gray tells LL to check back in a couple weeks when he’ll probably have a better idea of who he likes. 

Asked about Bowser’s endorsement of Bloomberg, Gray says he believes Bloomberg did a good job as mayor of New York City.

“I know he and Adrian Fenty were close, so how much influence that had on [Bowser’s] decision, I have no idea,” he says. 

Allen says his 7-year-old daughter has endorsed Warren.

At-Large Councilmember Robert White hasn’t landed on a favorite candidate either. “Been focusing on local issues,” he writes in a text message.

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Trayon White, and David Grosso didn’t respond to LL’s phone calls and texts.

This story has been updated with comments from Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.