New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential race, the Vermont senator’s campaign said Friday.
De Blasio, who is set to campaign with Sanders in Nevada ahead of the caucuses there, became the first former 2020 contender to back Sanders. He’ll join Sanders at a rally Sunday in Carson City.
“Mayor Bill de Blasio knows that the only way we can defeat Donald Trump is by uniting people from all backgrounds around an agenda that speaks to the needs of working families,” Sanders said in a statement to CNN. “Jane and I grew up in Brooklyn and we are so proud to have the support of a New York City mayor fighting every day to improve the lives of New Yorkers. Bill is a leading example of what bringing the Democratic Party together around so-called ‘radical ideas’ like universal pre-K, paid family and sick leave, and defending immigrant neighbors can do for our country.”
The relationship between Sanders and de Blasio traces back further than the current election cycle. Sanders spoke at the mayor’s second inauguration, on New Year’s Day in 2018. Though his own presidential bid fizzled, de Blasio has a strong base of support among African American voters in New York and remains one of the few high-profile progressive Democrats to have won high office powered by a multiracial coalition.
“I am standing with Bernie because he stands with working families, and always has,” de Blasio said in a statement on Friday night. “New Yorkers know all too well the damage caused by Donald Trump’s xenophobia, bigotry and recklessness, and Bernie is the candidate to take him on and take him down. I have called for a bold, progressive agenda, and that’s exactly what Senator Sanders has championed for decades. I am proud to endorse a true progressive leader who will fight for working New Yorkers and families across the country.”
De Blasio has also been a fierce critic of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a late and big-spending entrant into the primary, over his record on economic inequality in the city and the use of stop and frisk, the police tactic that Bloomberg defended during his three terms in office but more recently has apologized for.
De Blasio had made calls for overhauling the practice a centerpiece of his first mayoral campaign, in 2013. When Bloomberg apologized for his embrace of stop and frisk last year, de Blasio dismissed it as “a death bed conversion.”
“He had almost six full years to say it was wrong … we have had plenty of inflection points where he could have said, ‘You know what, I was wrong,'” de Blasio said in a phone interview with CNN. “He has never cared to do that. And I think that says something about the veracity of this.”
Bloomberg’s campaign declined to comment when contacted by CNN.
Bloomberg’s recently revealed talk about the practice has added to questions about his racial justice record. The former mayor apologized again following the release of audio from 2015 in which he can be heard describing the policy as a way to reduce violence by throwing minority kids “up against the walls and frisk them.”
“I defended it, looking back, for too long because I didn’t understand then the unintended pain it was causing to young black and brown families and their kids,” Bloomberg said Thursday night. “I should have acted sooner and faster to stop it. I didn’t, and for that I apologize.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who endorsed Sanders in October, recently called Bloomberg, as he’s sought to move on from the issue, “just a billionaire trying to cover up authoritarian & racist policy.”
“Stop and Frisk was an unconstitutional, devastating practice for the entire city that intentionally exempted White people from harm.” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this week. “It was one of the most racist policies I’ve ever lived through that deeply impacted the entire city.”
This story has been updated with additional comments from de Blasio and others.