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Michael Bloomberg is the most well-known mayor in the nation - for another 55 days. But Bloomberg has already expanded his reach beyond New York City, with his coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns and his political advocacy group Independence USA PAC.
Bloomberg dared to poke the bee hive, wading into the National Rifle Association's home state to back Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor's race. McAuliffe eked out a win over Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli Tuesday night.
"If I 20 years ago said to you a Democrat, who was F-rated by the NRA, and unabashedly in favor of commonsense gun checks, background checks – if I told you he could win governor, you would have laughed me out of the room," Bloomberg said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
"The voters of the home state of the NRA stood up yesterday and said, 'Enough,'" said Bloomberg,
Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC gave $1.7 million to Terry McAuliffe, and more than $3 million in Virginia races overall, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
"The people of Virginia have spoken, and the people of Virginia will be safer because of this," said Bloomberg.
But the people of Virginia had mixed reactions to ads run by Bloomberg's political group. Democrats tell CNN the ad supporting greater restrictions on guns played well in the Northern Virginia suburbs, but not so well in the outer suburbs, where feelings about the NRA are more positive. And in Southwestern Virginia, where McAuliffe did poorly, Bloomberg's involvement was used as a message point against him.
The NRA said some of Bloomberg’s endorsements were a bust, like the $100,000 the mayor’s political group invested in an NRA-endorsed Virginia State House candidate. “She won, he lost,” an NRA official said in an e-mail to CNN. The association also highlighted that of the 67 Virginia House Delegates the NRA endorsed, 65 won.
“It's a democracy, so not everybody is going to be on the same side. But McAuliffe won, which says a majority of the voters in Virginia want commonsense background checks,” said Bloomberg.
The mayor had a personal interest in getting involved in Virginia.
“I represent New York City. When we stop people with guns, illegal guns, more of them come from Virginia, sadly, than from any other state. So that was one of the factors that also convinced me that I should put some money into this race,” said Bloomberg.
Newly re-elected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said Tuesday that gun control measures need to address “root problems,” and “deal with folks who have mental health issues before they act out.”
“What Governor Christie is talking about is the person that takes an automatic weapon and kills many people. And, yes, I'm very much in favor of trying to find those people and provide help and get them off the streets,” said Bloomberg.
But, he added, “That's not where most people are killed. Most people are killed one or two at a time on the streets of our cities all over this country.”
Lessons for the country
Christie was re-elected in a blue state, with about 60% of the vote.
“The lesson for this whole country, whether it was Christie or McAuliffe - both of them were centralists. They could work across the aisle,” said Bloomberg. “Being an obstructionist, or being a radical, the voters rejected that in both cases.”
Handing over the reins to Bill de Blasio
Bloomberg met with Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio for about an hour Wednesday morning. De Blasio won by a landslide last night, beating out Republican nominee Joe Lhota by about 40 percentage points. Bloomberg chose not to endorse anyone in the race.
“Bill de Blasio and I aren't going to agree on everything, but we certainly agree on a lot of things,” said Bloomberg, who added he has “a big vested interest” in ensuring his successor is a successful mayor.
“The bottom line is, I'm going to live in New York City, and I want Bill de Blasio's administration to be successful, and our administration to do everything to transfer everything we've been doing over,” said Bloomberg.
The “slippery slope” of marijuana
Several ballot initiatives on marijuana passed Tuesday night – Colorado will now tax the drug, and Portland voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older.
“This is just a bad idea,” said Bloomberg, “and a slippery slope for us to go down.”
The mayor said he worries that drug dealers who can no longer make money selling marijuana will move on to more potent drugs, and marijuana users who grow accustomed to the drug will move on to prescription drugs, or crack and cocaine.
“There's no science that says smoking a lot of strong marijuana, which is what's on the market, I'm told, today, is good for your health,” said Bloomberg.
Given Bloomberg’s national recognition, and his expanding footprint in political races across the country, it is likely he will play some role in the 2016 elections.
“Let me guarantee you two things. Number one: I will vote. And number two: I won't be running … in terms of something in the middle,” said Bloomberg.
“It depends who's running, and whether I want to support them, whether I want to get involved,” said Bloomberg.
“I've got more things to do, going forward, than I can handle. In fact, I've got to start learning how to say no to new things,” said Bloomberg.