(CNSNews.com) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't have to run for re-election until 2005, but Republicans dissatisfied with the GOP mayor's liberal leanings and Democratic insiders have already begun to speculate about who might mount an intra-part challenge.
Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman, had been a lifelong Democrat until he suddenly switched political parties to run for mayor in 2001. While heavily Democratic New York City had several high profile candidates in the mayoral primary, hardly anyone in the GOP was lining up to replace the popular outgoing Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg made the jump to the GOP, and used his personal wealth to bankroll a record $75 million bid to win the mayor's office.
However, many in the GOP have discovered that Bloomberg's views are not their own.
"His views don't represent the overall views of the Republican Party. He may have been elected as Republican, but he is not identified as one," said Michael Long, the chairman of the New York State Conservative Party.
Since his election just two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Bloomberg has stunned Republicans and city residents by enacting the largest property tax increase in city history, and then hiking the cigarette tax from eight cents to $1.50 in an effort to close a huge budget gap. He followed that up with a ban on smoking in public places.
"Bloomberg's ban on smoking, the tax increases, and the cigarette tax, these are things we feel strongly about and we have been against. These actions are liberal thinking," added Long.
Bloomberg also ruffled the feathers of national GOP and conservative leaders when he warned fellow Republicans not to condemn same-sex unions in the GOP's platform during the 2004 convention, which will be held in New York this summer.
Republican National Convention organizers also have shown concern for Bloomberg's involvement.
With Bloomberg at the helm, the New York City Host Committee for convention funding managed to secure donations from some high profile Democrats, including hotel big shot Jonathan Tisch, real estate mogul William Rudin and Citigroup head Sandy Weill. Both Tisch and Rudin have supported the election of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Weill has supported business endeavors of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Many in the GOP are skeptical of any Democrat involvement in the Republican National Convention, and are concerned about Bloomberg's heavily Democratic inner circle as well as his liberal stances as the city prepares to host the 2004 convention.
While no Republican candidate has emerged yet to compete for Bloomberg's job, some names have been floated as potential primary challengers, including current U.S. Rep. Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.
"While he has been approached to run, Vito Fossella has no intention right now to run for mayor of New York City," said Craig Donner, Fossella's press secretary. "He is focused on his current job and his re-election campaign for Congress."
While Republicans in New York City ponder their political futures, Democrats are already lining up to run for mayor and take Bloomberg's job.
According to records from the city Campaign Finance Board, former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer has filed paperwork to run for public office next year. Current City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and City Comptroller William Thompson have been raising money for potential candidacies as well.
Potential candidates are seizing on a recent Quinnipaic University poll that shows Bloomberg's approval rating at just 37 percent. The poll also indicated that only 23 percent of New York City voters wanted Bloomberg re-elected, while 62 percent wanted a new mayor.
In the same poll, Ferrer leads Bloomberg 51-33 percent in a 2005 hypothetical match-up. Miller also polls ahead of Bloomberg.
"At this very early stage of the re-election game, Speaker Miller leads the mayor by a little -- and Ferrer thumps him," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
A spokesman for Bloomberg refused to comment for this story.
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