October 1, 2008
Bloomberg Called Ready to Announce Third-Term Bid
After months of speculation about his political future, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce on Thursday morning that he will seek a third term as mayor, according to three people who have been told of his plans.
The extraordinary move promises to upend New York City’s political world.
Right now, Mr. Bloomberg is barred by law from seeking re-election. But he will propose trying to revise the city’s 15-year-old term limits law, which would otherwise force him and dozens of other elected leaders out of office in 2009, the three people said.
In his announcement, Mr. Bloomberg, a former Wall Street trader and founder of a billion-dollar financial data firm, is expected to argue that the financial crisis unfolding in New York City demands his steady hand and proven business acumen.
The move represents an about-face for Mr. Bloomberg, who has repeatedly said he supports term limits and once called an effort to revise the law “disgusting.” He will apparently try to do so through legislation in the City Council, rather than the ballot box.
Mr. Bloomberg’s gambit carries significant political risk. The city’s term limits law was passed twice by voters, in 1993 and 1996, and several polls show widespread popular support for keeping it in place. Under the plan Mr. Bloomberg has outlined to associates, those voters will have no say in the matter, raising the possibility of a backlash.
Mr. Bloomberg, 66, who in public statements in recent weeks has become equivocal about term limits, has discussed in detail with his friends and advisers the pros and cons of changing the law and running again. “This has been thoroughly thought out by the mayor,” said a person who has advised the mayor in the past.
The mayor’s press office, which had limited staffing because of Rosh Hashana, did not immediately return a phone call on Tuesday.
Over the last few weeks, Mr. Bloomberg has taken pains to showcase his financial experience, trading phone calls with the heads of struggling banks, like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch and the nation’s top financial regulators at the Federal Reserve and the Securities Exchange Commission.
With his decision, Mr. Bloomberg is overruling the advice of this top three aides at City Hall — Edward Skyler, Patricia E. Harris and Kevin Sheekey — who have all told associates that they oppose a third term.
Those aides have told the mayor — at times forcefully — that any campaign to challenge the term limits law would look like an end run around voters, and could sully his strong legacy over the last eight years, according to people familiar with the conversations.
In the business community, however, the prospect of a Bloomberg third term is overwhelmingly positive. In dozens of private meetings and telephone calls over the last few months, executives ranging from the financier Steven Rattner to the chief executive of the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, have encouraged him to seek a third term.
As the city’s economy has become imperiled over the last two weeks, support for such a move has intensified.
“He has the confidence of the business community and the executive ability to run the city,” said Stephen M. Ross, the chief executive of the Related Companies, a major developer. “This is a good time for him to do this. People are scared.”
The chances of passing legislation in the City Council are strong, according to interviews. In August, a New York Times survey of council members — two-thirds of whom are scheduled to be forced out of office in 2009 — found that a majority were willing to amend the term limits law.
If successful, Mr. Bloomberg would be only the fourth New York mayor in modern history to win a third term.
Charles V. Bagli and Jim Dwyer contributed reporting.