On Saturday, the line to enter presidential contender Mike Bloomberg’s new office on 15th Avenue stretched around the corner onto Blake Street and all the way down the block to the 16th Street Mall. Bloomberg’s waiting supporters had filled the room by the time his campaign was ready to bring him on stage in the old downtown Patagonia shop. More waited outside as someone announced from the podium that as many as 1,000 people had come to hear the former New York City mayor speak.
One of Bloomberg’s national campaign staffers, who declined to give his name, said setting up shop in Denver is a sign that they’re looking beyond the Democratic primary race. Bloomberg hit that note during his speech, too.
“The other candidates are spending time in just a few states,” he said. “I’m here because Democrats must absolutely win Colorado if we want to beat Donald Trump in November.”
He went on to tout his record on bipartisan governance and told the crowd he’s someone who gets things done. Action on climate change, gun violence and the nation’s broken immigration system were among the things he said he’d tackle. He crossed off some Colorado bingo squares by mentioning craft beer and 14ers.
The crowd went wild.
Bloomberg is the fourth Democratic candidate to open a field office in the metro.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ state campaign is running out of the old Colfax Avenue thrift store across the street from Voodoo Donuts. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s staffers are set up in the business center on York Street just south of 40th Avenue. Sen. Michael Bennet’s national headquarters is situated in Lakewood. Former Vice President Joe Biden has hired someone to run his campaign in Colorado, though he hasn’t yet opened a brick-and-mortar shop in the state.
Volunteers for Warren’s campaign met at Raices Brewing in Sun Valley just hours after Bloomberg made his address. Sanders’ supporters also canvassed around Cheesman Park on Saturday. And there’s at least one stencil of Andrew Yang’s name spraypainted in RiNo. While locals are active for some the other seven contenders, most of the candidates themselves are focused on Iowa ahead of the statewide caucus there on Monday.
On Friday, the Democratic National Committee dropped their donor requirement for candidates to qualify for the next debate, which means Bloomberg could take the stage on Feb. 19. He’s self-funding his campaign, so that donor threshold was out of reach. Now, he and others just need to exceed numbers in specific polls.
The Republican National Committee sent out a statement following Bloomberg’s appearance, saying he is “attempting to buy his way into the presidency.”
Bloomberg’s fans were happy to see him show up.
Tom Johnston was at the back of the line, waiting to get into the building, but he wasn’t bothered by the mass of people in front of him. He’s a former New Yorker who said he’s been waiting for Bloomberg to run for a long time, so it wasn’t hard to be patient as he inched closer to the door.
“I’ve never done this for any candidate, so I feel strongly about getting behind him,” he said. “I think we need him now.”
Johnston said climate change is one of his biggest concerns, and he believes Bloomberg when he says he’ll make it a priority.
But beyond any single issue, Johnston said he takes comfort in knowing Bloomberg is a self-made billionaire.
“All the folks that are in government today, they’ve all been bought. They’re all dealing with lobbyists,” he said. “Mike Bloomberg is saying: I don’t need their money. This isn’t about him gaining more financial wealth.”
He added that this independence lets Bloomberg speak his mind without strings attached: “He speaks plainly. He tells it like it is from his viewpoint.”
This plain-spoken style was also something President Trump’s supporters lauded in the lead-up to his election. But Johnston said he doesn’t see much in common between the two wealthy politicians who say what they want.
“The guy that we have is not a rich guy,” Johnston said. “Bloomberg is somebody that is respected in the world.”
Johnston was far from being last in line by the time he was done speaking. Many more people filed in behind him.
Further up the line, Madeline Nealy said she’s liked Bloomberg for a while, but she came downtown less to express full support and more to learn more about him.
“I like the guy. He’s an adult,” she said. “He’s self-made and he’s done very well for himself and he has an interest in people – all people.”
She also said there’s “no parallel at all” between Bloomberg and the president. Though Bloomberg stands out from other Democrats as a rich guy, she said she at least expects him to release his tax returns. His staff has said he will if he gets the nomination.
Whoever becomes the nominee, Nealy is hoping American politics take a turn to embrace all people at all levels.
“It’s a global economy, and I think we should be all-inclusive, no matter the color, race, religion – and take care of the Earth before we frickin’ destroy it,” she said. “It’s time for change.”