STOCKTON, CA – Michael Bloomberg took his Democratic presidential campaign to California on Wednesday, pledging to launch a “war on poverty” at an event in a city once known as the nation's foreclosure capital.
“As president, my job will be to move all Americans ahead, and that includes committing our country to new and innovative ways to combat poverty. There has to be a war on poverty," the New York billionaire said while campaigning in Stockton.
His plan includes initiatives to raise the minimum wage and expand affordable housing. He outlined them after a community discussion with Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, who endorsed Bloomberg and said he had the “record, resources and relationships” to defeat President Donald Trump.
The trip marked Bloomberg's first to California since launching his 2020 White House bid. Since he's bypassing the four early voting states, Bloomberg — a former New York City mayor — is hanging his campaign success on states such as California, which votes on Super Tuesday and offers the biggest delegate haul in the primary contest. He's already spent at least $60 million on television advertisements, though his spokesman wouldn't say how much he's spent in California specifically. He said the campaign has hired three staff members in California.
Bloomberg said he thinks his pragmatic message will resonate with Californians, nearly 15 million of whom will be eligible to vote in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
“Californians understand nothing's simple — you have to have real solutions," he said. "And you have to have the evolutionary rather than revolutionary change."
While Bloomberg didn't mention any of his rivals by name, it appeared a clear swat at the philosophies of progressive candidates such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is calling for a “political revolution.” Sanders is also competing aggressively in California, where his campaign has dozens of staff members on the ground already.
Tubbs, who was elected in 2017, defended Bloomberg's use of his personal fortune to fund his presidential campaign, noting that Trump is a fundraising powerhouse who has amassed considerable money for his reelection bid. He said Bloomberg's decision to visit Stockton, where the poverty rate tops 20%, and to talk about issues like income inequality showed his priorities.
“He's not here and stopping for money. He's here to connect with people who usually aren't thought of in presidential campaigns," Tubbs said.
In Bloomberg's inequality plan, he's proposing expanding tax credits to build low-income housing, increasing federal spending on public housing and launching a $10 billion competitive program to encourage cities to ease zoning restrictions that govern where and how developers can build. Proposals in the California Legislature to ease restrictive zoning, which critics say contribute to the state's housing crisis, have failed.
Bloomberg is also calling for raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and expanding a tax credit for low-wage workers.
Tubbs is the second California mayor to back Bloomberg; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo endorsed Bloomberg earlier this week. Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin also threw his support to Bloomberg. In winning support from mayors, Bloomberg is cutting into a group where one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination — South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — has been trying to lock up support.
Later Wednesday, Bloomberg appeared alongside former California Gov. Jerry Brown at an event focused on climate change. Brown, who left office earlier this year, did not endorse Bloomberg. The two launched an organization aimed at fighting the rise in global temperatures several years ago.
Brown, speaking to The Associated Press, declined to comment on whether Bloomberg is a strong presidential candidate; he has largely avoided weighing in on the contest. But he said the candidates are not talking about climate change enough.
“What is really required is the creativity of a candidate to be able to bring climate change to the forefront,” Brown said. “If Mike Bloomberg can do that, that would make a major contribution to the cause."