N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg Leaves GOP

Michael Bloomberg, addressing a conference in Los Angeles, said he intends to serve out his mayoral term.
Michael Bloomberg, addressing a conference in Los Angeles, said he intends to serve out his mayoral term. (By Reed Saxon -- Associated Press)
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg abruptly left the Republican Party yesterday, declaring himself free of a "rigid adherence" to ideology and stoking speculation that he will use his multibillion-dollar fortune to mount an independent bid for the White House.

The founder of the Bloomberg financial media empire has repeatedly denied interest in the presidency. At a technology conference yesterday in which he attacked partisanship in Washington, he said: "I plan to be mayor for the next 926 days." But he has refused to rule out a run for the presidency, even discussing the possibility privately with close advisers and beginning to travel around the country, including a trip to the home of the nation's first primary, New Hampshire.

In a statement posted on the official Web site of New York City late yesterday, Bloomberg said that his plans "haven't changed" and that abandoning the Republican banner will better reflect his approach to governance. Bloomberg was a longtime Democrat before shifting his allegiance to the GOP before his first mayoral run in 2001.

"Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology," the statement said. "Working together, there's no limit to what we can do."

Bloomberg, 65, is in a position to spend more than any candidate has ever spent in a presidential campaign. Forbes magazine lists his net worth at $5.5 billion, although estimates run as high as $20 billion. Bloomberg has reportedly told those closest to him that he would spend as much as half a billion dollars if he ran for the presidency, while some reports have suggested that he could spend double that amount.

That would be 10 times what businessman Ross Perot spent in 1992, when he captured 19 percent of the popular vote. In his 2005 reelection campaign, Bloomberg spent $85 million, four times what his Democratic opponent spent.

Al Sharpton, a fellow New Yorker and former Democratic presidential candidate, likened Bloomberg's decision to the often mysterious ways of teenage romance.

"A girl in high school catches you looking at her and she starts wearing nice dresses," Sharpton said. "It doesn't mean she's going to date you. But she's at least teasing you, so it really increases your hope. This is a serious tease."

Asked whether he would endorse Bloomberg if he ran, Sharpton said: "I'm not saying I would necessarily endorse him. But I wouldn't rule it out either."

Bloomberg was in California yesterday for an afternoon speech and later held a series of private meetings, a spokesman in his New York office said. On Monday, he gave a speech at the Northern California headquarters of Google, where he playfully batted away questions about a presidential candidacy.

At the Google event, he declined to comment on reports that he had privately discussed a possible presidential campaign with former senator David L. Boren (D-Okla.).

None of the representatives of the major presidential candidates would comment yesterday. But political strategists said the mayor's announcement will force the leading Republican and Democratic candidates to reassess their strategies.

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