PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo still isn’t making an endorsement for president, but she lavished praise Thursday on former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg after it emerged he was filing for the Democratic primary in Alabama.
Bloomberg’s decision, first reported by The New York Times, has shaken up the discussion about the Democratic contest, suggesting moderates may get another choice beyond former Vice President Joe Biden and his rivals. Bloomberg is a former Republican and independent.
Longtime Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson reached out to Raimondo on Thursday to give her a head’s up about the former mayor’s move and ask for her public support, according to a person familiar with the discussion. (Alabama has the earliest filing deadline for next year’s primaries.)
The pair have known each other for years, and Bloomberg notably switched his allegiance in Rhode Island from then-independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee to Raimondo during the 2014 election cycle. Bloomberg’s most recent public visit to Rhode Island was last November, when he joined Raimondo for a roundtable discussion at the ACI about her response to the opioid crisis.
“While this is not an endorsement, Michael Bloomberg is a friend and I admire his track record as a successful business leader and mayor who finds practical solutions to some of America’s biggest challenges, from creating good jobs to addressing the opioid crisis and fighting for common-sense gun safety,” Raimondo said in a statement.
Raimondo’s national profile has risen further since she won re-election last November, partly due to her role as chair of the Democratic Governors Association. She has repeatedly spoken out, generally in New York Times interviews, about her concern that her party could blow the 2020 presidential race if it moves too far to the left.
In an interview with WPRI 12 on Wednesday, the day before she heard from Bloomberg’s team, Raimondo indicated she was contemplating whether to engage in the presidential race once she closes out her yearlong tour as DGA chair following next week’s Louisiana runoff election.
“I could see myself getting more involved in the presidential race once I decide who I’m going to get behind,” she said.
It’s not certain that Bloomberg would wind up being Raimondo’s candidate if he enters the race. She has also known Biden for a number of years, and he made a high-profile visit to Rhode Island in 2016 to rally support for her RhodeWorks infrastructure plan. She has also praised U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign and ideas, though Warren is more liberal than Raimondo.
Raimondo isn’t the only leading Rhode Island Democrat who has expressed openness to a Bloomberg bid. Back in February, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers he was intrigued by the idea.
“He brings so much money and power and clout into this that he could basically completely self-fund, and he’s also in a position to fend off the Republican attack and smear machine,” Whitehouse said at the time. He added, “I don’t necessarily agree with him on all his positions, but I’ve got to admire him on the work he’s done on climate and on guns.”
Whitehouse was more circumspect about Bloomberg on Friday. “Like any candidate, he’s entitled to the chance to share his ideas with the electorate,” he said in a brief statement.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook