Bloomberg says Sestak ‘has what it takes’
PHILADELPHIA—New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Democrat Joe Sestak for Senate here Tuesday, calling the second-term congressman and former Navy Admiral a pragmatic leader who “has what it takes to represent the best interests of the people of this state.”
Bloomberg’s endorsement, during a morning news conference outside a revitalized shopping center about two miles north of City Hall, came as the self-styled independent is traversing the country to endorse an ideologically eclectic mix of political candidates. A billionaire businessman, three-term mayor and Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent, Bloomberg is seen as building his own centrist credentials toward a possible presidential run. In turn, he gave Sestak a late-summer boost, helping advance the Democratic nominee’s narrative argument that, despite an almost uniformly liberal voting record, he is simply a non-ideological problem solver.
“A vote for Joe is a vote for leadership,” Bloomberg said, “a vote for Joe is a vote for independence, and a vote for Joe is a vote for the results that our nation so desperately needs.”
Sestak returned the praise, saying “I would like to serve in the same businesslike, pragmatic approach.
Bloomberg’s visit also came as he is mounting a steely defense of plans to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center a couple blocks from where the Twin Towers once said—a project that, despite local zoning approval and Constitutional protection, has become embroiled in political controversy. Pressed by reporters, Sestak stopped short of endorsing the specific project—but just barely.
“I strongly believe in the Constitutional right to freedom of religion,” he said, “the separation of church and state, and in those rights being equally applied to everyone.
“Let’s stop playing politics with these issues,” he added.
Challenged by Robert Sklaroff, an outspoken conservative activist prominent in local circles, as to how he could support the project considering past statements by the Imam behind it—the Imam has called American “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11—Bloomberg shot back: “I would suggest that you go straight to the library and get a copy of the Bill of Rights.”
The two politicians hardly agree on a plethora of policy issues, something both of them readily conceded. Bloomberg and Sestak only met for the first time shortly before they arrived together for the news conference, Sestak said.
And reporters did their best to expose ideological daylight between the two, on issues varying from health care and financial reform to foreign policy. Bloomberg, for example, declined to weigh in on Sestak’s contention that the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall financial regulatory framework paved way for the more recent financial crisis. And while Sestak has made opposing Wall Street interests a rallying cry for his campaign, Bloomberg sounded a note of defense for his friends in Lower Manhattan.
“We need Wall Street and we need Main Streets,” Bloomberg said. “We need everyone to come together. … I don’t agree or disagree entirely with anyone.”
Bloomberg spotlighted immigration reform and gun control as two issues on which he agrees with Sestak.
“I don’t value his endorsement because I agree with all his positions,” Sestak said. “I’m pleased to be endorsed by someone who speaks what he believes.”
In a statement, Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said “an endorsement from a New York City mayor and a Yankees fan can’t hide the fact” that Sestak is in lockstep with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The only time Joe Sestak has stood up to his own Party is when he thought they weren’t spending enough,” Soloveichik said. “In contrast, Pat Toomey stood up to Republicans and Democrats when he thought they were spending too much money.”
See video of Bloomberg’s endorsement below.
August 17, 2010 at 11:30 am