Michael Bloomberg greets supporters after his campaign event at Viva Villa. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Former New York City Mayor and current Presidential contender Michael Bloomberg kicked off his nationwide bus tour in San Antonio on Saturday morning. To the crowd of more than 160 people gathered at Viva Villa, a downtown restaurant across from Market Square, he said that in order for a Democrat to win Texas, they “have to invest time and resources into all 254 counties.”

And that is what the billionaire candidate intends to do, by investing a total of $3 million on advertising throughout the state, in addition to his Saturday tour, which will take him from San Antonio to Austin, ending Dallas.  

Bloomberg spoke for less than 20 minutes and used that time to highlight his success in business, which made it possible for him to fund his election campaign without a single donation, and during his tenure as mayor of New York City, where he says he reduced in the rate of uninsured people, improved prenatal care, and increased life expectancy for residents by three years. 

“A lot of the things that we did in New York show that we know to put a team together and focus on making people’s lives better,” Bloomberg said. “We have to work together and build a group that can deliver services and focus on getting things done rather than just partisan talking, which we can continue to do, unlike everybody else in this race.”

Bloomberg has risen in the polls to 5.8 percent, as reported on Wednesday. According to a Real Clear Politics average of national Democratic polling, he is up three points since the end of November when he announced his official candidacy.

Michael Bloomberg speaks at his campaign event at Viva Villa.

Despite officially exceeding the polling threshold required to qualify for next week’s debate, because his campaign is refusing to accept political donations, he failed to meet the donor requirements and won’t appear on stage.

While it might keep him out of the debate spotlight, his self-funded campaign is a plus for some San Antonians. Melody Yancelson, 56, attended the campaign event with her 19-year old son Brian. She told the Rivard Report she liked that “[Bloomberg] isn’t asking for money from people because he can pay for the campaign himself.”

“He said that instead of donating to his campaign we should take that money and donate to a charity, Yancelson said. “He isn’t taking money from voters or [special interest] groups, so he is able to talk about things differently.”

Brian, a college freshman voting in the presidential election for the first time, said the issues that are important to him include affordable education, health care, gun control, and climate change.

“I don’t want to go to school and be scared to get shot… I developed a plan for it if happens, where I am going to be, how I will get away, and I don’t think that should be a worry,” he said. “And as far as climate change, you see what’s happening in Australia. A fire in one place, a flood in one place, so I think something has to get done.”

Both Brian and his mom are undecided voters and have gone to see every presidential candidate who has come through San Antonio, including Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

“We are trying to see every candidate that comes to San Antonio before making any decision, because they can be so different in person,” Yancelson said.

Ben Ross is also undecided, but he said former Vice President Joe Biden and Bloomberg are his top choices for the Democratic nomination.

“I like practical pragmatic solutions to problems, which Bloomberg has,” Ross said.

Michael Bloomberg answers questions from local media.

Bloomberg is hoping to capture more undecided voters by convincing them he is someone who can “get things done rather than just talk about it.”

“I am trying to unify this country and get things done,” which if elected president, Bloomberg said, would include rescinding Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision for Texas to end its participation in the refugee resettlement program this fiscal year, increasing teacher salaries, increasing access to health care, and taking bigger steps toward addressing climate change.

Asked what he thinks border control and border security would look like for Texas under his administration, Bloomberg said “we have to have more border security and we have to have more immigrants and those things aren’t antithetical.”

“We should go out and we should advertise for the kind of people we want… and get the best one,” whether it’s a soccer player, musician, or farmer, Bloomberg said. “I think we also have a responsibility as human beings to try to make life better for those who are really threatened and refugees trying to escape horrible situations,” which can be done through distributing foreign aid.

Judy Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, introduces Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg’s visit was preceded by an endorsement from Judy Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, who introduced the candidate to the crowd in San Antonio. 

“America is a young country, therefore it doesn’t need a revolution. Those touting a revolution in this country are wrong,” Sheindlin said. “[America] needs a person to run the country who has demonstrated through governance, through managerial skills, through philanthropy, [that they can be successful], which Bloomberg has more than done.”

Monica Arangua, 50, who attended the campaign event with her 14-year old son, said she is undecided, but that she wants to get to know the candidates as best she can so she can ” help flip our state of Texas from red to beautiful blue.”

“We need someone who can do the job because we need a change. No matter what, we need change here in Texas and the whole country,” Arangua said. 

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.