On Thursday evening about 50 volunteers, staff, and curious voters ambled into Mike Bloomberg's new Seattle campaign office, one of ten offices the billionaire businessman plans to open across the state as part of a strategy to buy Super Tuesday, and then, if things go well, the rest of the Democratic nomination.
The spacious storefront in Pioneer Square was decorated with red, white, and blue streamers. Loose Dick's hamburgers and bags of chips were stacked in rows on a snack table in the back. Bright-eyed staff, who seemed excited to have health benefits and a guaranteed campaign job through November, walked around in white "I Like Mike Bloomberg" t-shirts.
For a while I was having some trouble separating paid Bloomberg fans from non-paid Bloomberg fans, that is until Arthur Joël Eisenberg shuffled into the room wearing a long coat and tennis shoes with one of the laces untied. If there were a die-hard Bloomberg fan in the room, this guy had to be it.
A Guy Who Committed Tax Evasion
Arthur Joël Eisenberg told me he worked in "communications" before he retired, which is true if "communications" means owning a now-defunct airline and a few phone sex companies. In the early 1990s he settled a phone sex scam case in court for $20,000 after allegedly "illegally pressur[ing] a number of people to pay phone charges for dialing the 900 and 976 numbers." More recently, in 2011 he pleaded guilty for failing to report income from money he'd stashed in the Cayman Islands. He got off with a $2.1 million fine and three years probation. He also apparently used to own an condo with 9 stripper poles and failed to invite me over even once, so, full disclosure, I'm bitter.
Say what you will about his financial past, but the man's analysis of social media is spot-on.
I haven't looked at twitter on years. What a big waste of time
— A Joel Eisenberg (@ajoele) October 28, 2013
Anyhow, he taught me the word "diaeresis" when describing the diacritical marks above the "e" in his name, and said he showed up to support Bloomberg "because he can win."
Eisenberg wants to boot Trump out of office—"he's a crook!"—and said that Bloomberg will get lifelong Republicans like him to vote. He also praised the former New York City mayor's stances on global warming and gun safety as "brave."
A Communications Professional
Katie Rodihan is Bloomberg's comms person for Washington. She told me that Bloomberg will open offices in Spokane and Tacoma by Sunday, and that they're looking to lease others in Yakima, Vancouver, and Everett after that. The campaign has already hired 45 organizers, who plan to buttress the billionaire's massive digital/TV ad buys with boots on the ground.
To store voter information, create and analyze digital ads, and run internal polling, the campaign is using a data program called Hawkfish, a company Bloomberg founded last spring. Rodihan said all that data will "rollover" to whoever faces Trump in 2020, "regardless of who the nominee is." She guessed the campaign won't directly hand over the data to the eventual Democratic nominee, but rather they'll house it within an independent expenditure operation.
All that said, Rodihan was of course rather bullish about Bloomberg's chances of earning the nomination, pointing out his recent "surge" in national polls (he's at 11%) and his good head-to-head numbers against Trump (his current average is +5%). "Once people hear Mike's message, what his goals are, what he's accomplished as mayor, what he's accomplished in the nonprofit world, they get really excited about him," she said.
The Mayor of Tacoma
During her speech at the launch party, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, one of the few Washington politicians who has endorsed Bloomberg (the other is State Senator Lisa Wellman), called the billionaire "the most down-to-earth person" she'd ever met.
The two met when she (and, incidentally, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan) participated in Bloomberg's Harvard City Leadership Initiative program in 2018.
The program selects 40 mayors from across the globe to learn tips and tricks about leading cities from faculty members such as Stephen Goldsmith, who "earned a reputation as one of the country's leaders in public-private partnerships, competition, and privatization."
I would guess they also learn valuable lessons from Bloomberg's tenure as Mayor of New York City, such as how to not notice when contractors rob the city blind during historically large corruption scandals. Or how to use a police force to systematically harass black and brown people, and only apologize for it when deciding to run for president. Or how to leverage fear during a recession to extend term limits and therefore maintain your power. Or how to turbocharge displacement by handing over a city's keys to the real estate industry and letting them run over public housing for a while, all while leading the country on income inequality. I don't see any of that in the curriculum, but I'm sure some of that comes up.
In any event, Woodards said she believes Bloomberg has the "experience, the knowledge, and everything he needs to stand toe-to-toe with the man in the White House...and he can beat him," before praising his “Greenwood Initiative,” which aims to increase Black homeownership and the numbers of Black-owned businesses.
A Luxury Car Salesman From Burien
Patrick Alldred saw no obvious front-runner in the Democratic field until Bloomberg announced his run for president. "He's got the chops. He's got the credentials," he said. "And he's pretty well connected. I think he knows a lot of world leaders on a first-name basis."
He thinks Sen. Bernie Sanders is "too liberal," that Joe Biden is "plummeting," and he, like the Mayor of Tacoma, also believes Bloomberg can go "toe-to-toe with Trump."
Alldred said he voted for Reagan in the 1980s, but otherwise he's always voted Democrat for president. He doesn't really have a second choice yet, but said he'll support whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee.
A Nice Young Person Who Works In Finance
Shelby, 27, works in finance and lives in Seattle. She hasn't decided who she likes for president yet, but the utter mess of the Iowa caucuses shocked her into an exploratory phase.
Her primary focus is electability. She said she's concerned about Mayor Pete Buttigieg's ability to appeal to a diverse voting bloc, and she worries Sanders may appeal only to "an independent base." Biden's inability to gain traction in Iowa and New Hampshire was also worrisome.
Though she disagrees with Bloomberg's opposition to a wealth tax, she likes the charitable work he's done with groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, and she likes that he skipped the early states. "They're not representative of the rest of the country," she said. "There are different paths to the nomination than the paths that are being charted now, and I'm interested to see how this one works out."