Michael Bloomberg, who likes telling New Yorkers where they can smoke, what they should eat and how much soda to drink, won’t be telling them how to vote for mayor.
The lame duck billionaire, who leaves office after three terms in January, made no endorsement in last week’s Republican or Democratic primaries and will stay out of the general election as well, he announced Friday.
“I don’t want to do anything to complicate things for the next mayor, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve said I’m just not going to make an endorsement in the race,” he said on his weekly radio appeance, as reported by the Daily News.
While it’s no surprise that Bloomberg won’t back likely Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio, who built his campaign on trashing the incumbent, it’s newsworthy that the former Republican, who also ran on the GOP line as an independent in 2009, won’t back that party’s newly minted nominee, Joseph Lhota.
But he may indeed be doing Lhota a favor.
Bloomberg’s perceived cozy relationship with Christine Quinn was seen as a key reason her once promising campaign tanked with a third-place finish on Sept. 10, behind staunch critics of the administration Bill de Blasio and William C. Thompson. De Blasio has about 40 percent of the counted Democrat vote and will secure the nomination without a runoff if he maintains that lead as absentee ballots are counted early next week. Quinn won just 25 percent.
About half of New Yorkers approve of Bloomberg’s perfornace, recent polls have shown, after a highly unpopular third term won after term-limits were extended by the Quinn-led Council. While the city’s economic recovery from 9/11 and the 2008 fiscal crisis have been steady under the media mogul’s stewardship, policies such as police stop-and-frisk and his unsuccessful attempt to ban supersize sodas have proven unpopular.
From Lhota’s point of view, a Bloomberg endorsement would be a double-edged sword. It would solidify his pro-business credentials, but also potentially drive away the crossover voters he desperately needs in a 6-1 Democratic town.
But the lack of endorsement may have other consequences.
“There will be less money flowing to Lhota, because people will think he has less of a chance to win,” says Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College.
(Bloomberg has also been known to vote with his checkbook, throwing his largesse behind favored candidates.)
Beveridge speculates that the mayor’s neutrality is because “he still harbors some kind of non-New York ambitions that backing Lhota would undercut.” If the “kiss of death” label on Quinn’s campaign is speculation, an endorsement of a failed Lhota campaign would seal the perception.
And, of course, there’s the fact that the former MTA chairman called Bloomberg an “idiot” for expecting the subways to resume quickly after flooding from last year’s Superstorm Sandy. (Lhota later apologized.)
The professor gives Lhota little chance of prevailing over the high-momentum de Blasio campaign. “I know for a fact that some major financial and business interests are already talking to de Blasio,” he said.