Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has hired two state Democratic party vice chairs in Super Tuesday states with two of the top three highest number of pledged delegates. Bloomberg hired Texas Democratic Party Vice Chair Carla Brailey as a senior adviser to his campaign in December, and he hired California State Democratic Party Vice Chair Alexandra Rooker for a similar role in January.
Both Brailey and Rooker are superdelegates who will likely vote for the Democratic presidential nominee at the party’s national convention this summer. Hiring the leadership of a state party doesn’t appear to break any campaign laws, but it indicates Bloomberg’s intent to effectively purchase political support, said Brendan Fischer, the federal reform program director at the Campaign Legal Center. “This does seem to fit a longstanding pattern of Bloomberg using his billions to help generate support among political elites,” he said.
Rooker is one of two members of Bloomberg’s campaign staff who also sits on the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee, which recommends rules for the convention, the convention agenda, the convention’s permanent officers, amendments to the party’s charter, and other resolutions. In November, the month he entered the presidential race, Bloomberg gave $320,000 to the DNC, his first contributions to the committee since 1998. (He was a registered Republican from 2001 to 2007, after which he became an independent. He registered as a Democrat in 2018.) He also donated $10,000 to the Texas Democratic Party, where Brailey has been vice chair since June 2018, as well as $10,000 to the California Democratic Party. Brailey, Rooker, and the Bloomberg campaign did not respond to requests for comment on their hiring.
Brailey rose through the local Washington Democratic Party structure, as a protege of former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was himself the patron of current D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a high-profile backer of Bloomberg.
Bloomberg will appear on the ballot for the first time on Super Tuesday, March 3. His campaign has poured tens of millions of dollars into both Texas and California where there are 228 and 416 delegates up for grabs, respectively.
In California, Bloomberg has hired a number of party alums in addition to Rooker, who was also previously a vice president and shop steward for the Communication Workers Association Local 9400. Former state Democratic Party executive director Chris Masami Myers is leading Bloomberg’s California strategy, and Courtni Pugh is a senior adviser focusing on outreach to black and Latino voters; Pugh previously led Sen. Kamala Harris’s California strategy before she dropped out of the presidential race in December. Bloomberg has spent at least $46.3 million on television ads in California so far, has dozens of offices there, and his campaign has said they planned to hire at least 800 staffers in the state. (They had hired around 300 staffers by the first week of February.)
In December, Bloomberg opened a headquarters in Houston and at least 16 additional field offices around the state. He has hired more than 160 canvassers and announced the opening of 11 additional field offices this month. He has spent at least $35.5 million alone on TV ads in Texas so far. (For comparison, Biden has support from about half of Texas’s Democratic congressional delegation. Sanders opened five field offices in the state in February, and Warren started opening offices in December. In Texas, Steyer has spent an estimated $3.1 million on television ads, Sanders has spent an estimated $2.7 million on ads, and Warren has spent an estimated $46,000.) Recent polls show him around 17 percent, trailing behind only Sanders and Biden, who are tied at 24 percent.
Beyond spending a lot of money, Bloomberg’s Texas strategy has drawn criticism from inside the campaign. The campaign only started knocking on doors in Texas last week and is counting on Election Day turnout, said a senior staffer with the campaign, who requested anonymity to protect their continued employment, while more than half of voting in Texas happens early or by mail. A campaign spokesperson said that voter engagement began in January, but did not respond to specific questions about those efforts. Around 58 percent of the vote in Texas’s 2018 marquee Senate race, the race with the most votes ever given to a Democratic candidate in a statewide election, came in early or by mail, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. This year, early voting began on February 18 and will continue through Friday.
“It’s odd that they are really banking on the election day turnout instead of focusing on the early voting,” according to the campaign staffer. The campaign started training organizers just last week, after early voting had begun, the staffer said.
Additionally, the campaign has hired people who don’t know the basics of canvassing. “A lot of the organizers don’t know how to cut turf, so like, the leadership from the field department, we have been cutting turf for the whole state,” said the staffer, who took a job with the Bloomberg campaign because it pays well, but will likely vote for Biden.
Bloomberg has been endorsed by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who governs the state’s largest city. Turner is one of more than 100 mayors around the country who have endorsed Bloomberg, a nice return on his investment in mayoral training and support programs in recent years. Bloomberg also has backing in Texas from state Reps. Julie Johnson, Cesár Blanco, Joe Deshotel, and former mayors Bill White of Houston and John Cook of El Paso. California Reps. Scott Peters, Harley Rouda, and Pete Aguilar have endorsed Bloomberg, along with California State Treasurer Fiona Ma. Peters’s longtime chief of staff, MaryAnne Pintar, is the California regional director for Bloomberg’s campaign. Bloomberg also has endorsements from the current mayors of San Francisco, Chula Vista, San Jose, and a former mayor of Los Angeles.