U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday won endorsements from three Congressional Black Caucus members, a positive sign for his campaign, which has drawn scrutiny lately over his past support for a controversial policing tactic.
The three included Democratic U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks of New York City, where Bloomberg was mayor for 12 years. As a senior caucus member and chair of a caucus fundraising arm, his is one of the highest-profile endorsements yet for Bloomberg, who is seeking his party’s nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election.
Meek’s endorsement, first reported by Reuters, signals that Bloomberg is building support among some top African-American politicians despite a 2015 audio recording that surfaced on Tuesday. In the recording, Bloomberg made a blunt defence of a policing strategy during his mayoralty, known as stop-and-frisk, that disproportionately ensnared blacks and Latinos.
Meeks said he backed Bloomberg for his economic policies and ability to beat Trump.
“The most vulnerable communities in America cannot weather another four years of a Donald Trump presidency,” Meeks said in a statement.
Bloomberg has been rising in public opinion polls despite not competing in the first four state contests for the Democratic nomination: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Instead, the billionaire former mayor is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to blanket the national airwaves with advertising.
As a moderate Democrat, Bloomberg hopes to win votes beginning on March 3, known as Super Tuesday, when his name will be on the ballot in 14 state nominating contests.
Those hopes have been buoyed this month as the early moderate front-runner, Joe Biden, has performed weakly in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Also endorsing Bloomberg on Wednesday were U.S. Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia, who said she was backing Bloomberg in part because of his proposals to curb gun violence.
Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, a Congressional Black Caucus member who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands as a nonvoting member of Congress, also endorsed Bloomberg.
Bloomberg has long struggled with the legacy of the stop-and-frisk tactic employed while he was mayor of the United States’ biggest city 2002 to 2013, in which police stopped and searched pedestrians.
He apologised for the policy in November just before announcing his candidacy and has since taken great pains to court the black vote, including a proposal unveiled last month to narrow the wealth gap between black and white Americans.