Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg Holds His Largest Campaign Rally Ever In Phoenix

By Scott Bourque
Published: Sunday, February 2, 2020 - 4:11pm
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2020 - 3:13pm

Crowds line up outside a Michael Bloomberg rally in downtown Phoenix.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
People line up outside a downtown Phoenix warehouse waiting to hear Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speak, Feb. 1, 2020.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg held a rally in Phoenix on Saturday. It was Bloomberg's first visit to Arizona as a presidential candidate. 

Though the crowd lacked the energy of a Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders rally, the more than 1,500 attendees made it the largest campaign event Bloomberg has hosted since announcing his campaign in November 2019. 

While other Democratic candidates are focusing their energy on Iowa and other early primary states, Bloomberg instead chose to spend time in states like Arizona with later primary elections. 

“Republicans think this is a red state,” Bloomberg said. “Some Democrats say it’s purple. But why don’t we call it what it will be in 2020? A blue state.”

Demographics in Arizona have been shifting slowly, but many political strategists no longer consider it reliably “red”. President Donald Trump carried the state in 2016 by less than 4 percent -- compared to 2012, where Mitt Romney carried the state by more than 9 percent. In the same year, controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was voted out of office by an 11-point margin. 

A taco stand outside a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in downtown Phoenix, Feb. 1, 2020.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
A taco stand outside a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in downtown Phoenix, Feb. 1, 2020.

In 2018, Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat the state's voters sent to the U.S. Senate since 1988 after beating Republican Martha McSally by 55,900 votes. The shifting trends weren’t lost on Bloomberg, who says he plans to campaign heavily in Arizona. 

“I’ll be spending a lot of time here,” Bloomberg said, “because the road to the White House runs right through Arizona.”

Gun Control

Bloomberg has been a vocal advocate for gun control for most of his political career. In 2013, he founded Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that pushes for universal background checks on gun purchases and other gun control measures.

Arizona is considered to be one of the most pro-gun states, consistently ranking in the top five on Guns & Ammo magazine’s annual list of best states for gun owners. 

Bloomberg’s Arizona field organizer Maral Sabeti says the tide is changing in Arizona, and Arizonans are more open to what she calls “common sense” gun control laws. 

“No one needs to talk about Arizona’s reputation for guns, we all know that Arizona has a pretty big appetite for guns,” Sabeti said. “But that seemed to change in the 2018 election. So we see people, especially with each tragedy, being more and more open to gun control. [Bloomberg] has pushed through sensible gun control that is digestible even for Arizonans.” 

During the Arizona Republican Committee meeting in January, Gov. Doug Ducey was heckled by protesters over his alleged support for so-called “Red Flag” laws. In his response, Ducey called Arizona the “number one pro-Second Amendment state in the nation.”

A 2019 poll from OH Predictive Insights found that nearly 60% of Arizonans thought the state’s gun laws weren’t strict enough. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story have been updated to correct the job title of Maral Sabeti.

People line up outside a downtown Phoenix warehouse to hear Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speak, Feb. 1, 2020.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
People line up outside a downtown Phoenix warehouse to hear Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speak, Feb. 1, 2020.

$5 Trillion Tax Plan

Shortly before the rally, Bloomberg announced his plan to raise $5 trillion through a tax on the wealthiest Americans. 

Under that plan, incomes greater than $5 million would be subject to a 5% “surtax”.

“I’ll raise the estate tax to generate some of the revenue we need to start fighting income inequality,” Bloomberg said in his speech. “My tax plan will make the tax code more progressive by reversing the Trump tax cuts, expanding the estate tax, and closing loopholes.”

Former Phoenix Mayor and Arizona Bloomberg campaign co-chair Paul Johnson says the tax plan is a bold counter to what Johnson says is a massive federal budget deficit caused by President Trump’s heavy spending and tax cuts. 

“We’re not going to be able to keep going where we’re cutting taxes and at the same time expanding social programs,” Johnson said. “It’s interesting coming from somebody like (Bloomberg), who is very wealthy. He recognizes that we need to make certain that this is a fair tax code.”

The Bloomberg campaign said the wealth and estate tax plan would only affect about 0.1% of taxpayers. 

Spectators gather inside a downtown Phoenix warehouse to hear Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speak, Feb. 1, 2020.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
Spectators gather inside a downtown Phoenix warehouse to hear Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg speak, Feb. 1, 2020.
Volunteers hand out Bloomberg swag at his downtown Phoenix rally, Feb. 1, 2020.
Scott Bourque/KJZZ
Volunteers hand out Bloomberg swag at his downtown Phoenix rally, Feb. 1, 2020.

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