Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed paperwork Friday to place his name on the ballot for the Alabama Democratic presidential primary next year, a spokesperson for Bloomberg confirmed. Bloomberg spokesperson Jason Schechter told CBS News' Pam Falk that the billionaire had 2,000 signatures, when only 500 are needed.
"An announcement of his candidacy could come as early as next week. Bloomberg has devoted his career — for many many years — to issues of the economy, healthcare, education, climate and gun control and he would focus on those, among other issues important to Americans, if he decides to run," Schechter said.
Representatives for Bloomberg were at the Alabama Democratic Party headquarters completing the process on Friday.
"It's been a bit of an eventful day here," said a party official who asked not to be identified.
Bloomberg is set to make an announcement "in the near future," as soon as Monday, said a Democrat who recently spoke with the former mayor about his plans. Friday's filing is the first concrete signal that he could launch a presidential campaign, according to a person familiar with his plans.
The person familiar with Bloomberg's planning said, "It's not weeks and weeks away. It's soon" and added, "he is actively taking steps to pursue a run."
The media mogul is in New York on Friday and is not planning any public events or to conduct any interviews in the coming days as he makes a final decision about a presidential run.
Bloomberg, 77, is the proverbial political boy who cried wolf and has stoked speculation about a potential presidential campaign ever since 2008, when he first toyed with running as an independent.
But after years of talk, this week he took action by dispatching aides to Alabama to collect the signatures required to appear on the ballot. The Cotton State has the earliest filing deadline for its presidential primary on Super Tuesday, March 3, and only requires collecting 500 signatures – an easy task for a well-financed candidate.
In addition to filing paperwork in Alabama, Bloomberg's team is "actively working" to meet Monday's filing deadline in Arkansas and next Friday's deadline in New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary. Both states only require mailing in an application with a four-figure check.
On Friday, the leaders of the New Hampshire and Iowa Democratic parties issued a rare joint statement acknowledging Bloomberg's interest in the race – and encouraging him to show up to campaign.
"We are excited that this Democratic presidential nomination contest has so many qualified candidates," the party chairmen said, adding later that "we are certain that Granite Staters, Iowans, and other early state voters are eager to ask Michael Bloomberg about his plans to move our states and our country forward. We hope that they will have that opportunity."
The party leaders spoke out as Bloomberg aides have signaled that he might forego Iowa and New Hampshire and focus instead on a more robust 50-state strategy.
"Don't expect him to run a traditional campaign," said the person familiar, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the potential campaign's strategy. "Our playbook would be that on day one, we could be in Colorado or Alabama or California. We could be there with significant resources, with talent that we could build up in a more substantial way than others could in those states."
Aides are not concerned about raising money for the bid, because Bloomberg is worth at least $52 billion and plans to self-fund, at least at the start. He never took campaign donations during his three mayoral runs.
Aides conceded, however, that Bloomberg would need to accept donations in order to meet the donor and polling thresholds required to appear on a debate stage alongside other contenders.
Bloomberg has already banked some goodwill with Democrats nationwide. He rejoined the party last year and has spent millions of dollars to help elect Democratic congressional and state-level candidates. He did so again in recent weeks to help Virginia Democrats retake control of the state legislature in part by campaigning on a vow to stiffen the state's gun laws.
Already, Bloomberg is taking steps to reach out to members of the Democratic Party leadership.
In South Carolina, Bloomberg has spoken to Stephen K. Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, who is the former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. During a dinner at the City Lab conference in Washington D.C. last month, he sat with Bloomberg and they had a "very involved" conversation about the race and characteristics that he thought made him a strong contender if he chooses to run.
"He's been a mayor, the mayor of the largest and probably the most comprehensive and consequential city in the world," Benjamin said, adding that he ran it really well for 12 years. Benjamin also praised Bloomberg's ability to manage a budget, his stance on climate change and his past experience with fighting for new gun control laws.
"We talked about an issue that he's been passionate about and leading on — guns and the 400 million guns in our streets," said Benjamin. " He was an early leader, a constant and passionate leader."
Amid early criticism over Bloomberg's extensive wealth, Benjamin said he doesn't see this as an obstacle for voters and thinks that he's the proof of concept for the American dream.
"People just want to want a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. They don't want someone on the far right or the far left, putting their weight on the scale," said Benjamin. "And I think he uniquely speaks to their ability to do that, and I think it'd be a mistake for some folks to try and cast the fact [that] this man's built a business and created wealth as some type of a scarlet letter."
In Nevada, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was among the party leaders Bloomberg called this week to inform them he was "thinking about running for president and thinking about running in the near future." They have spoken several times in the past.
Reached briefly by phone Thursday, Reid told CBS News, "I always had great admiration for the mayor. He's been on guns, there's been no one in the country better on doing something about gun violence, on firearms, than Michael Bloomberg."
"I think Bloomberg getting involved is not going to hurt anything," Reid added.
Nicole Sganga, Ellee Watson and Jillian Hughes contributed to this report.