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Michael Bloomberg Revs Up Texas Campaign With Big Plans

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 11.
Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 11.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is ramping up his efforts in Texas, with plans to build a state operation that his campaign says will be unrivaled by anyone else in the primary field.

In an announcement first shared with The Texas Tribune, his campaign said it will open a Texas headquarters in Houston and 16 field offices throughout the rest of the state between now and the March 3 primary. The offices will be spread across the Houston area, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Austin, East Texas, the San Antonio area, El Paso, Laredo, McAllen and the Killeen area.

The campaign also named its first Texas hires:

  • Carla Brailey, vice chair of the Texas Democratic Party, will serve as Bloomberg’s senior advisor.
  • Ashlea Turner, a government relations consultant who worked on Bill White’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, will serve as Bloomberg’s state director.
  • Lizzie Lewis, communications director for 2018 gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez, will be Bloomberg’s press secretary.

The moves by Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, are the latest developments in a campaign strategy to skip the first early voting states after his late entry into the race and instead focus on the delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, which include Texas.

Bloomberg is headed to Texas on Sunday for his second trip to the state since launching his campaign in late November. He is set to visit increasingly competitive Fort Bend County to meet with community leaders and elected officials and attend a block walk for state House candidate Eliz Markowitz. She is in a Jan. 28 special election runoff for a seat that Democrats are aiming to flip as they enter 2020 with hopes of capturing the lower-chamber majority.

Bloomberg is the third remaining Democratic presidential hopeful to name a Texas state director, following Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman, had one before he dropped out of the race in early November.

Warren, the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has until now led the way in building a formal Texas organization, making over two dozen hires spread across San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley.

While he’s only announced one hire, Biden has topped most Texas polls. There have not been many polls since Bloomberg declared his candidacy and launched a massive national TV ad blitz that prominently targeted the state. The one Texas survey since Bloomberg's launch, released Dec. 11 by CNN, found Bloomberg at 5% — good enough for fifth place in but still far behind Biden, who placed a distant first with 35%.

Bloomberg’s first campaign swing through Texas was on Dec. 7, when he traveled to Plano to address the State Democratic Executive Committee. In his speech, Bloomberg vowed to “fight like hell” to win Texas if he is the nominee and invest in a statewide campaign to help down-ballot Democrats win as well.

Bloomberg is the first White House contender to get involved in Markowitz’s race besides O’Rourke while he was still a candidate. The former El Paso congressman rallied with Markowitz in September and returned to the district earlier this month to campaign again with Markowitz. He was scheduled to open his El Paso home Sunday for a phone bank supporting her.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

*Editor's note: Bloomberg's campaign initially listed Kevin Lo as one of its first Texas hires. Lo later said he was incorrectly listed by the campaign and never worked for the campaign and has asked this story to be updated to remove his name. 

Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.
Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.