By Michael D’Onofrio
PHILADELPHIA — Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said the Democratic Party has taken African-American voters for granted as he stumped in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
“I’ll tell you why they [Democratic Party] take them for granted, because Black voters don’t go back and say, ‘You didn’t do what you promised to do and I’m going to vote for your opponent,’” Bloomberg said.
He added that Democratic elected officials have not followed through on their promises to Black voters and they “should not let elected officials get away with that.”
Bloomberg brought his campaign to the National Constitution Center just days after he skipped the chaotic Iowa caucuses. He said this year’s general election is a referendum on the president, and voters — of all races — must deliver their own verdict on his impeachment trial, which the U.S. Senate was expected to vote on in the coming days.
Bloomberg told the crowd of approximately 1,800 people, most of whom were white, that he is running primarily “to defeat President Donald Trump.”
Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City and a billionaire who is funding his own campaign, called himself the “un-Trump.” He said he is committed to creating jobs, lifting wages, reducing inequality, creating a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., protecting abortion rights, and fighting climate change.
During the rally, Bloomberg got support from former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and former Eagles linebacker Dhani Jones.
Nutter, a co-chairman of the Bloomberg campaign, called Trump “the most dangerous person on the planet.” He said Bloomberg’s success in business and as mayor of New York City has prepared him for the White House.
“At a time of great crisis, at a time of challenge, at a time of recklessness and gridlock in Washington, D.C., it is time for Mike Bloomberg,” Nutter said.
Bloomberg remains one of 11 candidates running in the Democratic primary. He entered the race late and did not qualify for any Democratic debates.
Bloomberg decided to skip the first handful of nominating contests, including the Iowa caucuses held on Monday, and was focusing on states holding their Democratic primaries in March. The Democratic primary in Pennsylvania is April 28.
Bloomberg has spent nearly $300 million on advertisements, according to news reports.
In a one-on-one interview with The Philadelphia Tribune after the rally, Bloomberg acknowledged racism is still prevalent today. He said the top issues facing African Americans in 2020 are discrimination, a lack of access to education that contributes to poverty, and a failure of the federal government to prevent redlining, among other things.
Asked about the racial makeup of his top-level staff, Bloomberg said he had a “whole bunch” of diversity, including Nutter and Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, who is African American.
Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Democrat, was a long-time supporter of the police tactic of stop and frisk and pushed for its use in New York City when he was mayor. He has apologized for using the policing tactic, but said “it did bring down the muder rate” to historically low levels in New York City.
“I can’t go back and redo history, but I can learn from that,” Bloomberg said.
Among those waiting to get into the Constitution Center before the rally were Detra Mays and Bruce B. Rush, both 63-year-old undecided voters.
Mays, who lives in Wynnefield Heights neighborhood, said she was paying close attention to the presidential campaigns, noting her top issues were women’s rights and civil rights.
While she remained “interested very much in Joe Biden and what he’s about and what he’s going to bring to the table,” she was concerned about the former vice president’s age. Biden and Bloomberg are both 77.
Rush said he attended the rally because he had a “curiosity to see what somebody has to say that can’t be bought.”
With the general election months away, Rush said the Democratic candidate field was lacking.
“I have not been overly impressed the rest of the field up till now,” he said.
Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.