While former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be best-known for backing high-profile campaigns targeting gun rights and fatty foods, it was in backing moderate and centrist candidates in the 2014 elections that he found more success.
"Earlier this cycle, Mike Bloomberg concluded that a broken Washington would likely remain broken regardless of last night’s outcome, and decided to direct significant resources to assist moderate Republicans and Democrats at the state and local levels instead. This strategy paid off yesterday, as Bloomberg’s PAC helped propel gubernatorial candidates of both parties and important referendum to victories," wrote Howard Wolfson, a senior Bloomberg adviser, in a post-election campaign memo.
"No other individual spent as much money in support of both Republican and Democratic candidates, and no one had as much success at the state level in backing successful candidates from both parties," he added.
Through his Independence USA PAC, Bloomberg poured $20 million into backing a bipartisan slate of candidates, including Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Rick Snyder of Michigan, both of whom won their contests.
On the Democratic side, he supported eventual victors John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Dan Malloy of Connecticut and Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.
Of the gun control referenda he financed, a Washington State measure to expand background checks was passed. Bloomberg spent $3 million in support of the initiative, reports The Seattle Times.
Bloomberg's strategy of toeing the middle ground was a contrast to some other billionaire investors, such as environmentalist Tom Steyer, who was the biggest spender of the 2014 elections. Bloomberg was right behind him, according to Politico.
According to the Los Angeles Times,
Steyer unsuccessfully poured almost $75 million into efforts to promote environmentalism and candidates who favor greater regulation.
"You can keep hitting your head against a wall, or you can go elsewhere," Bloomberg said in a statement to Politico. "Change is really possible at the state and local level."
In fact, about 60 percent of the Republican-turned-Democrat's spending was on state and local races, compared with 40 percent on federal level campaigns. Of the money he dedicated to local and state races, 40 percent went toward gubernatorial and school board candidates and 20 percent on ballot measures, reports Politico.
Through his Independence USA PAC, he spent $25 million in ads for Republicans and Democrats in the final months of the campaign in several states, The New York Times reported in October.
One of the local investments Bloomberg made was a $100,000 donation to the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, which backed former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels in his successful campaign for the city's school board, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Of the 16 races which Bloomberg and his Independence USA PAC supported, he only lost four, according to Politico.
another takeaway from the 2014 elections is the diminished power of teachers' unions, particularly in the Democratic Party.
"The surprising thing is you now have Democrats who are willing to buck the union. You can take reform positions and be successful not only in general elections, but in primaries.
It’s a major sea change in the Democratic Party that you can now oppose the union and be successful," Wolfson told The Washington Post.
One of Bloomberg's lasting legacies in New York City was whittling away at the power of teachers' unions and promoting nonunion charter schools, according to The City Journal.
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