STOCKTON, Calif. -- Michael Bloomberg took his Democratic presidential campaign to California on Wednesday, pledging to launch a “war on poverty” at an event in a city once known as the nation's foreclosure capital.
“As president, my job will be to move all Americans ahead, and that includes committing our country to new and innovative ways to combat poverty. There has to be a war on poverty," the New York billionaire said while campaigning in Stockton.
His plan includes initiatives to raise the minimum wage and expand affordable housing. He outlined them after a community discussion with Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, who endorsed Bloomberg and said he had the “record, resources and relationships” to defeat President Donald Trump.
The trip marked Bloomberg's first to California since launching his 2020 White House bid. Since he's bypassing the four early voting states, Bloomberg — a former New York City mayor — is hanging his campaign success on states such as California, which votes on Super Tuesday and offers the biggest delegate haul in the primary contest. He's already spent at least $60 million on television advertisements, though his spokesman wouldn't say how much he's spent in California specifically.
Later Wednesday, Bloomberg planned to appear alongside former California Gov. Jerry Brown at an event focused on climate change. Brown, who left office earlier this year, does not plan to endorse Bloomberg, but the two have worked together for years on efforts to stop the rise in global temperatures, a chief political issue for both.
Tubbs, who was elected in 2017, has experimented with a variety of policies aimed at boosting economic opportunity for his city, including a pilot program for universal basic income and guaranteeing scholarships to most of the city's high school graduates.
“We can be upset about things like poverty. We should be upset by things like massive inequality. We shouldn't be upset about success," Tubbs said, referencing some of the criticism Bloomberg has faced for using his fortune to fund his presidential campaign.
Tubbs defended Bloomberg's use of his personal fortune, noting Trump is a fundraising powerhouse who has amassed considerable money for his reelection campaign. He said Bloomberg's decision to visit Stockton, where the poverty rate tops 20%, and to talk about issues like income inequality showed his priorities.
“He's not here and stopping for money. He's here to connect with people who usually aren't thought of in presidential campaigns," Tubbs said.
In Bloomberg's inequality plan, he's proposing expanding tax credits to build low-income housing, increasing federal spending on public housing and launching a $10 billion competitive program to encourage cities to ease zoning restrictions that govern where and how developers can build. Proposals in the California Legislature to ease restrictive zoning, which critics say contribute to the state's housing crisis, have failed.
Bloomberg is also calling for raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and expanding a tax credit for low-wage workers.
Tubbs is the second California mayor to back Bloomberg; San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo endorsed Bloomberg earlier this week. Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin also threw his support to Bloomberg. In winning support from mayors, Bloomberg is cutting into a group where one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination — South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — has been trying to lock up support.