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Bloomberg talks supporting veterans and gun safety during presidential campaign stop

Bloomberg talks supporting veterans and gun safety during first presidential campaign stop in San Diego. (San Diego Tribune/TNS)

Barely a week into 2020, San Diego saw its first visit of the new year from a Democratic presidential hopeful.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the newest candidate to enter the presidential race, made two stops in San Diego Sunday where he highlighted issues related to veterans and gun safety while pitching himself as the candidate most likely to defeat President Donald Trump in November.

“I know something about partisan politics, I’ve been a Republican and a Democrat and an Independent, but to me it is just the policies that matter rather than the color of your pin,” Bloomberg told dozens of San Diegans gathered at a small veteran-owned business in Kearny Mesa. “We have in this country an awful lot of people who want to make this country pull together, and that is why I’m here.”

“The president of the United States should remember the word ‘united’ is the big thing,” he added.

The stop in San Diego less than two months before California’s March 3 primary, was Bloomberg’s first stop in San Diego since announcing his candidacy in late November and marked the first day of a two-day swing through Southern California. Bloomberg also visited Riverside Sunday and has events scheduled in Los Angeles on Monday.

The latest — and likely final — candidate to enter the presidential field, Bloomberg is aiming to change the playbook on presidential campaigns by entirely skipping the early primary contests in favor of focusing most of his time and resources on the primaries held March 3, the day dubbed “Super Tuesday,” when more than a dozen states hold primaries.

That approach, combined with the 77-year-old billionaire opting to self-finance his campaign despite it disqualifying him from the upcoming Democratic presidential debates, puts a greater emphasis on the need for Bloomberg to get out and meet voters where they are, as he did in San Diego Sunday.

The former mayor, who made his fortune by co-founding financial information and media company Bloomberg LP, began his San Diego swing with a stop at veteran-owned Fuse Integration in Kearny Mesa where he spoke about his three-term tenure in New York and emphasized the need to support more business initiatives, especially for veterans. He said veterans are eager to learn and frequently exit military service with skills but are too often left behind. As president, he said, he would propose launching a nationwide grants competition to help veteran startups get off the ground, among other things.

“If we are going to do right by our veterans and our military families we need to recognize what they’ve sacrificed in uniform and we need to recognize that they can offer this country an enormous amount as civilians,” Bloomberg said. “We find that when vets come (to Bloomberg’s business) they need some training in the commercial world, but they are smart, they are hardworking and they are hungry to acquire the skills to take care of their families for the rest of their lives.”

He also shared his ideas for other ways he’d support small businesses more broadly including helping cities establish small business incubators and shared workspaces, creating a national core of business mentors, and bringing business solution centers to high-need communities to assist with navigating the permitting and loan process. He also said the government needs to eliminate much of the red tape and regulations that make it too difficult for small businesses to get off the ground.

At his second San Diego event held in the home of Wendy Wheatcroft, District 7 City Council candidate and former president of the local chapter of gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action, Bloomberg turned his attention to other high-profile progressive issues including climate change and gun safety.

While addressing a crowd of gun safety advocates packed into Wheatcroft’s backyard, the former mayor praised the advocacy of Moms Demand Action, and said the organization’s work and that off other groups, like his nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, have put the National Rifle Association on the defensive, provided sound research and helped advance sensible gun safety legislation in dozens of states. He noted that more than 20 states now have background check laws.

“We’re not trying to control guns, the Second Amendment — which we are not going to change — gives people permission to have guns,” Bloomberg said. “But the courts have said we can have sensible gun laws: to not sell guns to people with psychiatric problems, people who are minors and people who have criminal records.”

“If you can just get those laws implemented around this country you would make a very big difference,” he added.

The presidential hopeful’s message and bipartisan tone resonated with at least one of the independent voters he’ll need to swing to make a dent in California.

San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey, a former Republican who turned independent last April, praised Bloomberg for pushing back against the extremes of both parties and as someone who’d deliver strong ideas to support job creation, wage growth and infrastructure.

“Tribalism is destroying our country and frankly that starts at the top,” said Kersey. “The tone being set by the current White House is important. Mayor Bloomberg, by contrast, is a data-driven problem solver who appeals to Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.”

Many of Kersey’s former Republican colleagues regard the former New York mayor — and his San Diego visit — much less favorably.

“Michael Bloomberg was a complete embarrassment as mayor — and he has brought those same socialist policies with him on the presidential campaign trail,” said Samantha Zager, a spokesperson for the Trump Victory campaign arm. “From his radical stance on the Second Amendment to his attempts to regulate every detail of Americans’ lives, Californians have already seen what a Bloomberg presidency would mean for them.”

Although the Democratic field has thinned in recent months it still remains relatively large with at least a dozen candidates including high-profile figures like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer.


© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune