ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg came to Georgia on Friday to meet influential Democrat Stacey Abrams and then rally a white-collar crowd of supporters around his late-starting, unusual White House campaign.
His visit with Abrams and a private speech to a voting rights summit she hosted comes after disclosures that the billionaire former New York City mayor donated $5 million to the political action group Abrams founded after her narrow defeat in the 2018 Georgia governor's race.
Abrams has met with several White House hopefuls and given no indication that she will endorse anyone. Bloomberg's moves nonetheless underscore the unusual path he is hoping to carve out to the White House as he bypasses the four early voting states and uses his vast personal fortune to build out a national campaign in the states that follow.
"Our campaign is going to stay here until November," Bloomberg promised as he officially launched his operation in the state Friday after meeting with Abrams.
Georgia's primary is March 24, three weeks after a Super Tuesday slate that Bloomberg hopes establishes him as more than a billionaire spoiler.
The former mayor offered the Atlanta crowd his standard political fare -- a firm critique of President Donald Trump and a pledge of competent government -- mixed with tributes to Atlanta and its lead role in the American civil rights movement.
"I'm a problem-solver. ... I know America is not New York, but I also know that America is ready to get things done," Bloomberg told about 150 backers who joined him after he addressed Abrams' voting rights summit.
He lauded Abrams, who would have been the first black woman to lead a U.S. state, and Democratic Rep. John Lewis, the Atlanta civil rights icon who recently announced a dire cancer diagnosis. Bloomberg told the mostly white audience that he'd just come from lunch at Paschal's, one of the city's famous black-owned restaurants where Martin Luther King Jr. and his contemporaries often dined and made plans during the civil rights era.
Abrams was popular enough in defeat to be tapped to give Democrats' response to Trump's State of the Union address last year. Her name is among those commonly bandied about as a potential vice presidential candidate for Democrats once the party settles on a nominee. That speculation almost certainly would intensify if Democrats nominate a white man, such as Bloomberg, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders or former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But Bloomberg is the only Democratic presidential hopeful who has written a personal seven-figure check to her voting rights nonprofit. Bloomberg's campaign touts the contribution and his appearance Friday at her summit as an extension of his own voting rights advocacy. Since leaving the New York mayor's office in 2013, Bloomberg has plunged millions of his own dollars on public policy campaigns, advocating especially for climate action and tougher gun laws.
Abrams declined to comment on her summit Friday. Her aides confirmed a private discussion with Bloomberg.
Abrams launched the Fair Fight committee out of her gubernatorial campaign after alleging that voting irregularities helped prevent her from forcing a runoff against now-Gov. Brian Kemp, who'd been the Republican secretary of state who oversaw their election. Fair Fight has an ongoing federal legal battle challenging aspects of Georgia's election system.