Analysis: Bloomberg Not Humbled by Close Election


bloomberg1After NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was nearly unseated by his little-known challenger, the ever-confident billionaire declared it a “great week” and threw a ticker-tape parade. Granted, the over-the-top celebration was for the Yankees, who had just won the World Series for the first time in Bloomberg’s eight years. But it might as well have been a bash for the 67-year-old mayor, who associates say has not been even slightly humbled by the closer-than-expected finish to his re-election bid Tuesday, and has no qualms about governing the way he pleases.The associates say that Bloomberg believes that once you win, people expect you to lead whether you got there by 5 points, as he did this year, or 3 points or nearly 20 points, as he did in his first two elections.

“This is New York, people might not like your attitude, but what New Yorkers will not accept is a mayor who is gazing at his navel and wondering about how he got where he is,” said Bill Cunningham, a former Bloomberg adviser. “They expect leadership.”

The founder of Bloomberg LP, whose fortune is estimated at $17.5 billion, is likely to have poured more than $100 million into his bid for a third term, when all the expenses come in. That’s more than 10 times what his Democratic challenger, William Thompson Jr., was able to spend, relying on a mix of donations and public matching funds.

Bloomberg’s record-setting spending, more than any other self-financed bid for office in U.S. history, only got him a five-point win, a difference of about 50,000 votes. While close re-elections can sometimes cause the winners to second-guess themselves and do some soul-searching about how to go forward, the mayor is not that type.

“I am who I am, I say what I believe,” Bloomberg said this week. “My only focus is to try to make this city better.”

Bloomberg has never really believed that he needed overwhelming support to get things done. Sometimes that instinct has been right; other times it has bred overconfidence and led to failure.

The Bloomberg administration has had a reputation over the years for doing whatever it wants, sometimes strong-arming legislators and potential opponents to accomplish projects on the mayor’s agenda.

The former CEO was first elected in 2001 by just a three-point margin. He set about pursuing a set of aggressive policies, including winning control of the city school system and banning smoking in bars and restaurants. One of his most ambitious dreams, building a football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side with the goal of wooing the 2012 summer Olympics to New York City, was never realized.

He and his aides raised hackles in Albany when they tried to forge ahead with the football stadium plan without spending enough time courting lawmakers and community groups. State leaders who were unimpressed with the approach ultimately dashed those hopes.

When he tried to impose tolls on vehicles entering Manhattan’s most congested areas as a way to get more cars off the streets and raise money for mass transit, councilmembers said he and his aides twisted arms to get the vote to go their way. They prevailed, but the plan died later in the state Legislature.

Councilmembers complained about being forcefully pressured by the administration in a “you’re either for us or you’re against us” way last year when Bloomberg was seeking to change the city’s term-limits law so that he could run a third time. He won that battle, too.

Many of the city’s Democratic leaders have said the margin of victory Tuesday should be a wakeup call for Bloomberg to change the way he works.

But this mayor, who built his multibillion-dollar company from the ground up, is not particularly concerned with anyone else’s opinion. New Yorkers shouldn’t expect much to be different in his third term, except some of the faces around him. Some aides, many of whom have been with him for his entire eight years, are expected to leave, and he has also promised a shakeup of some agency heads.

The day before the election, when polls had him up by double-digits, he was already saying the margin wouldn’t matter.

“A win is a win, but you’d always like to have more,” he said. “Nobody’s going to remember two days later how much you won by. They’re only going to remember who’s going to be mayor for the next four years.”

{CBS Radio Inc./ Newscenter}


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