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Mayor Bloomberg Pounds D.C. Pavement on Gun Control

Bloomberg lobbies members on Capitol Hill, uses Illinois special election primary as more ammunition for cause

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Bloomberg speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House on Wednesday.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took his victory lap to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to advocate for his pet political issue: gun control.

Fresh off his super PAC’s victory in an Illinois special election, Bloomberg is moving on to the rest of Congress as his next target, urging members to pass legislation on background checks.

“Is it a harbinger of things to come? I think so,” Bloomberg said in a briefing at the White House. “This is the public speaking. I didn’t win. ... It is the public who is the winner here.”

Bloomberg’s super PAC claimed victory for boosting its preferred candidate to victory in Tuesday’s 2nd District primary. Independence USA PAC spent $2.5 million to support Cook County Chief Administrator Robin Kelly, now the Democratic nominee and likely the next member from the heavily Democratic district.

But it was clear that even though the 2nd District special election primary is over, Bloomberg’s political campaign has only begun. Bloomberg described Kelly’s win in the primary to replace former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. as the start of what he expects will be a trend.

“The voters ... understood that they and their children and grandchildren are at risk with guns on the streets,” he said, adding that he would continue to spend money in districts where he could make a difference.

But Bloomberg’s next move comes a little closer to Capitol Hill than Chicago. He wants to ensure Congress passes a key piece of gun control legislation that would require background checks. He underscored this priority in meetings on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning.

“He talked about the success they had in that last election in Chicago that just happened and that he is going to remain active on the issue,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on his Wednesday meeting with Bloomberg.

In addition to McCain, Bloomberg met with GOP Sens. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine as well as Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., before heading to the White House to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and briefly with President Barack Obama.

Both the mayor and his PAC kept quiet on the specifics of where his super PAC would spend big this cycle. But one Bloomberg source described the Illinois race as “a little skirmish” compared to what would come later in the cycle.

Bloomberg and others have shown little interest in investing in races where there is no path to victory for a preferred candidate or to exact punishment for punishment’s sake. Instead, Bloomberg’s team aims to give skittish members on both sides of the aisle confidence that they will have political support in upcoming votes on gun issues.

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