Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg just made black history. The presidential candidate who has been running his campaign through television ads and private meetings spent a historic amount of money – $3.5 million – with black newspapers.
"Mike Bloomberg just made the largest single political ad buy in the history of the NNPA," said Ben Chavis, president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. "The money has already been distributed, and it's running in our newspapers right now."
Chavis said the money will be broken down among NNPA member newspapers in states that hold primaries on Super Tuesday and beyond. Super Tuesday states include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia.
"It's a national ad buy, and over 129 of our newspapers will benefit from that," Chavis said. "What it shows is that the Bloomberg campaign is taking the black vote seriously and it's taking the Black Press seriously." The St. Louis American is among those newspapers benefitting from the ad buy.
NNPA, which turns 80 in March, has a membership of more than 200 black-owned newspapers around the country. A longstanding grievance aired by the organization is that Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Convention have tended to take black newspapers and the black voters who read them for granted. This is despite the fact that African Americans vote for Democratic presidential candidates 95 percent of the time.
"NNPA is a 501-C6; so we don't endorse," said Chavis. "But our member newspapers have the freedom to endorse whatever candidate they feel will best serve Black America."
Joe Biden has long been thought to be the front runner in the black community, especially because of his service as vice president to President Barack Obama. But it is clear that Bloomberg's strategy is to meet him head on. While Biden has yet to lay out a black agenda, Bloomberg held a meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma on January 19 to lay out his black economic agenda.
“It was very close to the U. S. Black Chambers' economic agenda – from increasing the number of black-owned businesses to increasing the number of deposits into black banks, increasing the number of African-American homeowners, increasing the number of contracts awarded to black businesses by the federal government,” said Ron Busby, president/CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers Inc., who attended that meeting.
Stressing that the Black Chambers is a non-profit and cannot endorse candidates, Busby said he has had no such meeting with Biden.
According to the Associated Press, at the Tulsa meeting, Bloomberg "spoke out against an American history of race-based economic inequality from slavery to segregation to redlining, and outlined a proposal aimed at increasing the number of black-owned homes and businesses. The plan includes a $70 billion investment in the nation's most disadvantaged neighborhoods."
Bloomberg went to Tulsa to commemorate the 1921 race riots in Tulsa where African-American business owners were killed and their shops burned in one of the worse race riots in U.S. history.
"For hundreds of years, America systematically stole black lives, black freedom and black labor," Bloomberg told the audience – “a theft of labor and a transfer of wealth, enshrined in law and enforced by violence."
During his speech in Tulsa, Bloomberg apologized for the controversial "stop and frisk" used by the New York Police Department while he was the mayor of New York City.
While Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are claiming front-runner status, Bloomberg will not be on any ballot until Super Tuesday, March 3, when voters go to the polls in 12 states where nearly one-quarter of the Democratic delegates will be selected.
One of the challenges that all of the candidates have is generating excitement, according to E. Faye Williams, president of National Congress of Black Women.
"There is no excitement in the race, and my concern is that people will stay home instead of going to the polls," Williams said. "We had Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris but they are gone, and right now we in the black community feel left out."