Editor's note: this story has been updated to reflect comments from Julián Castro about Bloomberg.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president, Bloomberg’s campaign announced Thursday morning.
The backing of the mayor of the fourth-largest city in America is Bloomberg’s most high-profile Texas endorsement yet. It also gives Bloomberg another nod from a prominent black elected official as the billionaire grapples with pushback over his use of “stop and frisk” policies while he was mayor of New York City.
“As mayor, Mike embraced New York’s diversity and made smart investments that brought better infrastructure and greater opportunity to all five boroughs,” Turner, a Democrat, said in a statement released by the campaign. “We need a president who knows how cities run. It’s why I’m proud to endorse Mike for president, and I look forward to sending him to Washington in November.”
The endorsement from Turner comes after an audio recording of a 2015 speech surfaced in which Bloomberg is heard defending the racial profiling used in “stop and frisk.”
“Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops,” Bloomberg can be heard saying in the clip.
In a statement, Bloomberg acknowledged that the stop and frisk policy were “overused” in New York. “By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should’ve done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities,” he said.
Turner said he and Bloomberg have had conversations about the stop and frisk policy over the last few months — before the audio’s release. He added that he and Bloomberg went to breakfast together in January and that the presidential candidate “worshipped with him at his church,” but his endorsement “didn’t come easily.”
“It was important from the very beginning to get an acknowledgment that stop and frisk was flawed and to get an apology for it. He acknowledged it was flawed policy to me, and if he had not, I would not be standing with him,” Turner told The Texas Tribune. “If you’re willing to publicly indicate it’s wrong, the question now is: Where are we going from here?”
It doesn’t appear as though Bloomberg critics are ready to move on from the controversial policy issue.
Bloomberg and former presidential candidate Julián Castro spoke Thursday night in Houston at the Harris County Democratic Party’s annual Johnson, Rayburn, Richards Dinner. Speaking with reporters beforehand, Castro said he respected the billionaire former mayor but argued that he should be held to account for stop and frisk.
“I don’t think that money can buy you a new record,” Castro said, noting Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk apology came days before he launched his White House bid. “I have a hard time believing that’s a genuine apology.”
Bloomberg, for his part, did not broach the issue while addressing the dinner, though he was interrupted twice by hecklers, including at least one who apparently brought up stop and frisk. He responded jovially after the second outburst, saying, “Thank you for making me feel like I’m at home.”
Speaking at the dinner later in the night, Castro took a more serious tone toward the protesters as he urged Democrats to seriously consider which presidential candidate will represent their values in the general election.
“Having said that,” Castro said, “I also want to commend the folks that spoke up about stop and frisk earlier tonight.”
So far, the clip hasn’t stopped the billionaire from amassing support among black elected officials. Before Turner, three members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Bloomberg.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg released a new slate of Texas endorsements and recently opened nearly 20 offices in the state, which has its primary on March 3. State Reps. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton; Cesár Blanco, D-El Paso; and Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, have backed Bloomberg. Former Houston Mayor Bill White and former El Paso Mayor John Cook have also endorsed him.
Turner — who will also co-chair the campaign’s Infrastructure Council, where he will advise on policy and strategy — will be in Houston with Bloomberg tonight at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum to launch a new initiative called Mike for Black America, which is supposed to help address issues important to the black community.
Bloomberg, who is skipping the early states’ primaries and caucuses in favor of waiting to compete until Super Tuesday, has visited the Texas several times since launching his presidential campaign.
“Being a great mayor of a large, diverse city means taking on big challenges that affect millions of people, like infrastructure and climate change, and issues specific to certain groups, like expanding opportunities for young men of color — and Mayor Sylvester Turner has done both amidst the melting pot of cultures in Houston,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.