‘Oh, we want a liberal Democrat’: The time Mike Bloomberg backed Scott Brown over Elizabeth Warren

The former New York City mayor called it "a disgrace" that Massachusetts voted Brown out of office.

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talk to one another after participating in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C., co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sander talk to one another after the Democratic presidential primary debate Tuesday night in South Carolina. –Patrick Semansky / AP

This year’s Democratic presidential primary race isn’t the first time Sen. Elizabeth Warren went up against Mike Bloomberg in an election.

And the Massachusetts senator made a point of noting it during the Democratic debate Tuesday night. Criticizing the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman for history of donating millions of dollars to Republican candidates, Warren brought up Bloomberg’s effort to help reelect former Sen. Scott Brown “against a woman challenger” in 2012.

“That was me,” Warren said on the debate stage.

“It didn’t work, but he tried hard,” she added.

Bloomberg, who has called Brown’s loss a “disgrace,” didn’t directly respond to Warren’s remarks Tuesday night. However, his campaign indicated Wednesday that Bloomberg stood by the 2012 endorsement.

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As The New York Times reported at the time, the Medford native — who has been a Democrat, Republican, and independent during his political career — waded into the heated Senate race to support Brown after the incumbent Republican voiced opposition to a GOP-backed national concealed-carry reciprocity bill, which would have allowed permit-holders to carry concealed firearms in states, like Massachusetts and New York, that have laws against concealed carry.

Bloomberg, who has made gun control one of his core issues, said the bill “would have been chaos.”

“He’s not good on other things that I would like,” he said of Brown during a radio appearance in July 2012.

“He’s not good on guns generally,” Bloomberg added. “But this was something that was really critical, saving a lot of lives, and that’s what I think you should give support to, people that do the right thing.”

The then-mayor even hosted an August fundraiser for Brown at his home in New York City — and expressed dismay after the senator eventually lost to Warren in the November election.

“I think it’s a disgrace that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where I came from, didn’t reward Scott Brown for standing up,” he told the Times that December, according to a transcript of the interview provided by the Bloomberg’s campaign.

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Brown had committed to voting against the concealed-carry reciprocity bill in a Nov. 3, 2011 letter to former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, after pressure from the gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which was founded by Bloomberg and Menino. The legislation passed the GOP-controlled House with votes from 229 Republicans and 43 Democrats two weeks later, but died in the Senate, which was controlled by Democrats at the time. Brown was one of two Republican senators in the 47-member minority who publicly opposed the bill.

While the legislation would have also faced a likely veto from then-President Barack Obama, Bloomberg gave Brown unique credit for stopping the bill.

“He is the one that single handedly stopped the Republicans from passing a bill that would have allowed right to carry in every single state,” he said in his interview with the Times.

“And the public said, ‘Oh, we want a liberal Democrat, we’re Massachusetts,’” Bloomberg continued. “Well, whether you like Elizabeth Warren or not, [I] find this hard to believe that this isn’t more important. And this guy had the courage to stand up.”

Bloomberg’s endorsement was reportedly part of a strategy at the time to use his resources to incentivize Republicans to buck the “party orthodoxy” on gun reform. And while Bloomberg was far more aligned with Warren in the effort to pass more restrictive gun laws, the mayor’s office told the Times that they weren’t convinced gun control issues were a priority for her campaign.

Warren, a consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor at the time, portrayed Bloomberg’s endorsement as another example of Wall Street interests taking Brown’s side. As multiple outlets reported, the financial industry rallied behind Brown in the effort to block Warren, from the Senate. Up until his presidential campaign, Bloomberg has consistently spoken out against increased regulation of Wall Street, where he made his $60 billion fortune.

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In the 2020 race, Warren has withered Bloomberg for spending unprecedented amounts of money on his campaign, as well as his past support of Republicans.

“I don’t care how much money Mayor Bloomberg has,” she said during the debate Tuesday night. “The core of the Democratic Party will never trust him. He has not earned their trust.”

But Bloomberg has argued his vast wealth as an asset. During the debate, he noted that the gun reform groups he funds have helped pass stronger laws in 20 states.

Asked about his 2012 endorsement and if he stood by it, Bloomberg spokesperson Sabrina Singh pointed to the candidate’s efforts to take on gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.

“Mike is the only candidate who has taken on the NRA and won, including when Mike’s gun safety advocacy group convinced Scott Brown to deliver the NRA one of their biggest losses ever, stopping a bill that would have allowed people to carry a concealed firearm in every single state,” Singh said in a statement.

She also noted that Bloomberg’s strategy has recently shifted away from backing Republicans in certain instances, spending “tens of millions of dollars” to help Democrats flip the House in 2018.

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