It appears that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul, has switched his affinity from Gov. Lincoln Chafee to RI General Treasurer Gina Raimondo in the 2014 Ocean State campaign for governor.
Bloomberg, a lame duck independent and a gadfly who has flirted with a third-party presidential race, is holding a fundraiser for Raimondo at his New York residence Thursday evening. In 2010, Bloomberg campaigned for then-independent Chafee’s successful run for governor. Now, after Chafee has switched his political affiliation to the Democratic Party, Bloomberg is backing Raimondo.
The New York mayor’s change to Raimondo is less about Chafee and more about the general treasurer, particularly her leading the charge in 2011 for an overhaul of Rhode Island’s public employee pension system that cut benefits to state and public school teacher retirees, according to Bloomberg's press spokesman.
Bloomberg’s spokesman, longtime Democratic operative (and New York city deputy mayor) Howard Woolfson,, said Gotham’s mayor considers Raimondo to be a ``one of the real superstars’’ of contemporary politics.
Chafee sloughed off the switch, saying, ``I really just focus on running the state and the politics will take care of themselves down the road.''
Bloomberg, his spokesman said, has no serious criticism of Chafee but has been ``disappointed’’ by the Rhode Island governor’s ``resistance to charter schools.’’
While that stance may frost Bloomberg, it may help Chafee with the Rhode Island teachers and their unions that have vigorously criticized his role in supporting the pension overhaul championed by Raimondo.
``This is really more about Gina Raimondo than it is about Mr. Chafee,’’ said Woolfson. ``A lot of it has to do with the pension stuff.’’
Democrat Raimondo has about $1.7 million in contributions that she could use for a 2014 gubernatorial run. She has reportedly been telling political allies that she wants to have $2 million in her campaign coffers by the end of the month. Her spokeswoman did not return calls from RI Public Radio seeking comment but in a statement to WPRI.com Raimondo said she is still ``seriously considering'' a campaign for governor in 2014 and stated that, ``we need the resources to run a great campaign and this fundraiser by Mayor Bloomberg is a great help in the process.''