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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser endorses Mike Bloomberg for president

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg in Maine on Jan. 27. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser endorsed Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg Thursday, calling the billionaire former mayor of New York City “the only candidate who will unify the country and defeat Donald Trump.”

Bloomberg came to Washington to deliver a speech outlining his plan to create affordable housing and ease the homeless crisis that is posing challenges for large cities across the country, including the nation’s capital.

Bowser appeared with him at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE, a gentrifying corridor that illustrates the challenges cities face in balancing economic development and the needs of the poor.

She chose Bloomberg, a businessman who served three terms as mayor, from a crowded field of candidates that includes former vice president Joe Biden, who worked closely with the District during the Obama administration and whom she has praised in the past.

“What’s most important to me is we have a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump,” Bowser said at a news conference, praising Bloomberg’s plans for affordable housing and gun control. “I think Mike has demonstrated the commitment to be in this race until the end and put the necessary resources in to get it done.”

The crowd of about 100 people included top D.C. government officials and fixtures of local politics, including Cora Masters Barry, widow of former mayor Marion Barry.

Also Thursday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney endorsed Biden, saying he would “prioritize giving working families the shot at the American Dream that they deserve.”

Stoney, who was chair of the Virginia Democratic Party when Barack Obama and Biden were elected in 2008, said the former vice president has “dedicated his life to public service and to giving a voice to those who don’t have one. He has always stood up for what was right.”

Bloomberg, who entered the race in November, ranked fourth among Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered independent primary voters in a Washington Post-ABC News poll published Sunday, slightly trailing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and far behind Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

He is not on the ballot in next week’s Iowa caucuses or the following week’s New Hampshire primary, but he is pouring tens of millions of dollars into the 14 Super Tuesday states hosting primaries March 3. The District’s Democratic primary is June 2.

Bloomberg has been criticized, especially by African Americans and civil rights leaders, for backing an aggressive “stop-and-frisk” policy as New York mayor, which led to police officers stopping a disproportionate number of minorities. Shortly before launching his presidential bid, Bloomberg said he was “wrong” for supporting the policy.

Bowser, who will be a national campaign co-chair, is among more than two dozen current and former mayors to endorse Bloomberg, a list that also includes former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter. Bloomberg praised Bowser last week at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, saying she is “doing a terrific job” and that he hopes that “one day soon we can call her governor” — a reference to his support for D.C. statehood.

Her debut as a Bloomberg campaign surrogate was on “The Russ Parr Morning Show,” a syndicated radio show based in the District. When a host asked her how voters should respond to the “stain” of Bloomberg’s support for stop-and-frisk, Bowser said she accepted Bloomberg’s about-face.

“He regrets very much that he wasn’t looking more closely at the data and recognizing the disproportionate impact on African Americans,” Bowser said.

“All mayors are going to go and talk about public safety and do everything they can to keep their city safe, that’s one of the first jobs of the mayor,” Bowser continued. “But no mayor wants to support a policy that underneath it is harassing innocent people.”

She also praised Bloomberg’s campaign strategy to focus on Super Tuesday states instead of the much less diverse Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Mike is . . . taking an entirely different approach, and he’s going to states all over the country, populous states, diverse states that better reflect America to spread his message,” she said. “He’s laying the groundwork in D.C. for D.C. to be the 51st state, and he wants to make an early investment in our town.”

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