San Jose mayor kicks off Mike Bloomberg campaign in Bay Area
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is featured in this file photo. Photo by Nadia Lopez.

    San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo kicked off presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg’s campaign in the Bay Area at a Pleasanton home Saturday, officially marking “Day One” of a nationwide campaign just months before millions of Democratic voters march to the polls in the spring.

    Addressing an intimate gathering of affluent Bay Area voters, Liccardo expressed his support of the former New York City mayor for his leadership as a business executive and his hard stance on policies rooted in climate change, gun control and public health.

    “As I saw him taking leadership on climate change, reducing gun violence and improving public health it became so obvious to me that while he was helping cities figure it out… we need his leadership at the national level,” Liccardo said.

    The event, held at the home of business executive Mike Cordano — president of San Jose-based data storage company Western Digital — was one of more than 200 campaign kickoffs across the country, marking the first day of Bloomberg’s presidential bid, despite the campaign officially taking off in November. As a former Republican and Independent before running as a Democrat, Bloomberg has gained the attention of wealthy financiers like Cordano, who said he was supportive of a “centrist” willing to bridge the political divide.

    “I have a lot of passion about his ability to get things done,” Cordano said to a small group of friends. “I’m a centrist, he’s a centrist. I think he could bring together a political environment that’s polarized.”

    Currently, the three top contenders wrestling for the nomination — former Vice President Joe Biden and to his left Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — have outnumbered the other candidates in the polls. Since announcing his bid, both Sanders and Warren have taken shots at Bloomberg for his billionaire status, criticizing the former three-term mayor for “buying his way” into the election.

    Bloomberg alone — worth roughly $57 billion — is financing his campaign, unlike his competitors, which means he doesn’t qualify to participate in the democratic debates. In order to meet the Democratic National Committee’s requirements, Bloomberg would need at least 200,000 campaign donors, with 800 donors in 20 different states.

    But supporters like Liccardo don’t see this as a weakness. For the Silicon Valley mayor, Bloomberg’s ability to finance his own campaign means he’s capable of tackling a bully like President Donald Trump without having to be accountable to wealthy donors from dubious industries.

    “When Mike Bloomberg is spending money on his own connections everybody knows exactly how Mike Bloomberg earned it and where that money came from,” Liccardo added. “That is so critically important to me as I look at the chokehold that the gun, coal and oil industry has had over American politics.”

    While the billionaire has only been in the race for the past seven weeks, already he’s spent millions — more than all of the other candidates combined — on advertising efforts to spur awareness of his candidacy, while his campaign has picked up steam with more than 500 staffers in 30 states as they plan a slew of campaign events within the next few months.

    “There are going to be many more of these events over the next few months,” campaign spokesperson Mike Buckley said. “We’re excited and we think that each of these builds on another event.”

    Bloomberg has invested more than $200 million in a fierce television crusade to promote his candidacy, aggressively plastering his image across airwaves with a flurry of nonstop ads in blue states where Democratic primaries are set to take place. Bloomberg’s campaign is skipping the first four states in the primary process — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — instead focusing efforts on advertising in the 14 states holding their primaries on Super Tuesday, which includes California.

    But the lack of screen presence on the debate stage has some likely voters worried he won’t gain enough support in time for the primaries — or enough to oust President Trump.

    “He shows that he could accomplish things and appeals to people on both sides, but he’s not really going to be part of the debates,” said event attendee Greg Boehle, a union steamfitter and welder from UA Local 467. “People do watch it, and across the country, not everybody knows who Mike Bloomberg is. It doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people.”

    San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks to retiree Pam Condy at a Mike Bloomberg campaign kickoff event in Pleasanton. Photo by Nadia Lopez.

    For others at the event, like retiree Pam Condy, Bloomberg’s stance on women’s issues is critical to winning her support.

    “If he doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose, I can’t support him,” Condy added.

    Still, Condy said she was “excited” to hear avid supporters like Liccardo champion Bloomberg’s efforts on progressive policies such as a soda tax, reducing carbon emissions, and stronger gun control. That’s why Liccardo is counting on Bloomberg’s extensive political record and business experience to push likely voters into the “I Like Mike” camp, as many Americans are seeking a cathartic change.

    “We need people who are willing to step up against the bullies. There’s plenty of yelling going on in politics today,” Liccardo added. “I happen to believe there are many, many Americans that are hoping simply for a sane alternative to Donald Trump.”

    Among Bloomberg, there are 12 other presidential candidates running ahead of California’s March 2020 primary. Since last month, the presidential bidder has made two visits to California, according to the campaign, and plans on returning again in the coming weeks.

    Liccardo in December became the first California mayor to endorse Bloomberg and was named his California co-chair, raising some eyebrows in progressive Silicon Valley.

    But Liccardo is among at least eight mayors who’ve endorsed Bloomberg, including Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, many of whom received millions of dollars in grants from Bloomberg’s philanthropic foundation, according to a recent New York Times report.

    San Jose, for example, landed a substantial award through Bloomberg’s American Cities Climate Challenge — a package worth about $2.5 million — though Liccardo said there had been “no strings attached” to the money.

    Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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