Bloomberg adds 3 key hires in delegate-rich California

Political News
Michael Bloomberg

File – In this Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, Democratic Presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gestures while taking part in an on-stage conversation with former California Gov. Jerry Brown at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. In the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, no prize is bigger than California, which offers more delegates than any other state. And as candidates plot their strategies here, there’s an overlooked group of voters who could be key to victory: independents. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Michael Bloomberg is adding three experienced California Democrats to his presidential campaign in the state that awards the most primary delegates, including the former head of Sen. Kamala Harris’ state campaign operation.

Courtni Pugh, who led Harris’ strategy in the senator’s home state, is joining Bloomberg’s team as a senior adviser focused on paid media targeting constituency groups such as Latino and black voters, the campaign announced Friday. Bloomberg also has hired Crystal Strait, the former head of the state’s Planned Parenthood chapter, as political director, and Alex Gallardo Rooker, a vice chair of the state Democratic party, as a senior adviser.

Strait, who also has worked for the state party and former California Sen. Barbara Boxer, said she’s joining the campaign because she believes Bloomberg is the party’s best chance of beating President Donald Trump.

“Winning is the only thing that we need to be focused on right now,” she said.

Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, launched his campaign in November and is counting on success in California to capture the nomination. He is skipping the first four early voting states to focus his energy on California and the other states that vote on Super Tuesday, held on March 3.

His latest hires join Chris Masami Myers, who heads his California operation and previously served as executive director of the state party.

Bloomberg’s pattern of bringing on operatives with party experience could bring his campaign needed expertise on the party’s rules for picking up delegates. California has more than 400 delegates, the most of any state.

But Bloomberg’s rivals have also been flexing their muscles in the heavily Democratic state. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, just days after appearing with Bloomberg. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is aggressively campaigning in the state, holding rallies often and targeting California’s 5 million independent voters, who can vote in the Democratic primary.

Harris ended her 2020 presidential campaign in November, saying her team didn’t have the financial resources necessary to continue.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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