Bloomberg Meets With Perot Campaign Chief

When former two-time New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ran for a third term in 2009 after amending the cities term limits law, he raised suspicion and even contempt among his critics. It didn't help when the billionaire went on to run the most expensive self-financing campaign in U.S. history, spending $108 billion of his personal fortune. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg met Friday with the ballot access expert and campaign manager for H. Ross Perot's third-party presidential bid, a sign of the seriousness in which the multibillionaire is considering his own independent run.

Bloomberg met privately with Clay Mulford, who is well-versed in third-party ballot access and served as campaign manager for Perot, according to an individual close to the mayor. Perot sought the presidency in 1992 and 1996.

The lunch meeting with Mulford comes less than two months before Bloomberg would be able to start gathering signatures to get on the ballot and meet Texas' early deadline.

If Bloomberg wants a chance at winning the state's large slice of electoral votes - 34 - he would need to collect about 74,100 signatures by May 12, and could only begin petitioning there on March 5. Not only does he have a short window to petition, the signatures need to be from Texas residents who did not vote in a party primary.

Asked Friday about the significance of being in Texas, with its early ballot deadline, Bloomberg seemed irritated with the question, having said only a moment earlier that he is "not a candidate" despite all the calls for him to run.

"I just said, I'm not a candidate - it couldn't be clearer," he said. "Which of the words do you not understand? People have urged me to do it but I'm not a candidate."

Nonetheless, analysts are calling his new plan to extend a $1 billion property tax cut a shrewd political move if he does make a bid for the Oval Office.

Despite declining tax revenue from New York's troubled financial sector, the billionaire mayor said in his State of the City address on Thursday that the tax cut would be included in next week's preliminary budget plan.

Political analysts said his tax-cutting proposal could help his image with anti-tax proponents and show that he has confidence in the city's economy.

"He would be ... wanting to project an image that he's smart about running economic matters, which he would argue the country is going to be needing very much in the next couple of years," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

With his liberal stances on issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage, he could be hoping that continuing the property tax cut will help solidify his appeal with Republican voters.

Charles Brecher of the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal and government watchdog group, called the mayor's plan "responsible," saying that his proposed across-the-board cuts for all city agencies would help reverse recent spending increases.

In his address, Bloomberg said his administration's sound fiscal planning had allowed the city to prepare for a less-than-rosy economic outlook. He has already ordered agency heads to cut expenses by 2.5 percent this fiscal year and 5 percent the following year.

"During the sunny days, we prepaid debt, saved for retiree's health care and budgeted responsibly," he said. "When clouds started forming last year, working with the comptroller, we began to cut spending and freeze hiring."

Steven Cohen, a professor of public administration at Columbia University, praised the mayor's plan, saying taxes should not be raised in an economic downturn. The tax-cut plan should also help the mayor politically, Cohen said, although he does not believe the mayor will run for president.

"For the last quarter century, politicians who advocate raising taxes lose elections," he said.

The proposal must still make it through negotiations with the City Council.
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