NEW YORK – Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to push for a change in the city's term-limits law and run for another four years, a person who has been briefed on the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Bloomberg, who has been wrestling with the decision for the past couple months and only decided over the weekend, will announce his plans Thursday, according to the person who is close to the mayor but spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hasn't been made.
The Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent has long been a staunch supporter of the term-limits law but had hinted in recent months that he'd be willing to overturn the measure.
News of his change of mind was first reported by The New York Times, which said he changed his mind because he believes the financial crisis roiling Wall Street demands a leader with his strong business expertise. A former Wall Street trader who founded the multibillion-dollar financial data firm Bloomberg LP, the mayor is reported to be worth an estimated $20 billion.
On Tuesday, the New York Post reported that Ronald Lauder, the billionaire cosmetics heir who pushed through the city's term-limits law, was willing to make a one-time exception so Bloomberg could run again.
"I've been reading that Mayor Bloomberg might be interested in serving a third term," Lauder told the Post. "Because of the unprecedented times, this is welcome news. To me, Mayor Bloomberg's brilliance in the financial sector, particularly Wall Street, would be invaluable."
Bloomberg's change of heart comes amid the nation's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The turmoil has dealt a serious blow to the city's economy, which relies on heavily on Wall Street profits for its tax base.
If Bloomberg did seek another term, it will be politically risky, however. Polls have shown that the public supports the idea of term limits, and Bloomberg himself vetoed a bill in 2002 that would have extended the terms for some officials.
At the time, he said the proposed law was wrong because it amounted to changing the rules for personal political gain.
Lauder spent millions of dollars of his own money on the referendum that led to the enactment of the two-term limit in 1993. Just weeks ago, his spokesman announced that he would bankroll television commercials arguing that term limits were still needed. The commercial compared politicians to diapered babies, saying they needed "to be changed regularly."
Lauder's office and his spokesman didn't immediately return calls from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Any change in the law would send shock waves through the ranks of the city's politicians, many of whom have been campaigning for different jobs, including Bloomberg's. The law currently on the books will force the mayor from office at the end of next year, as well as the city comptroller, two-thirds of the city council and the city's public advocate.
Democrats lining up to run include city comptroller William Thompson, city council speaker Christine Quinn, Rep. Anthony Weiner and city councilman Anthony Avella. On the GOP side are supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis and lawyer Bruce Blakeman.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani floated the idea of a three-month extention to his term to ease the transition of power. He also suggested overturning the city's term-limits law, but ultimately decided against it. Even in the wake of the attacks, with Giuliani's approval rating at 90 percent, one poll found that 55 percent of New York City voters opposed repealing term limits.
Other mayors who have served three terms are Fiorello H. La Guardia, Robert F. Wagner and Edward I. Koch.