Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign has flooded the country with television ads, Instagram posts, and now, emails from the president of Penn Democrats.
An email with the sender listed as "Owen Voutsinas-Klose, Penn Dems President" was sent to Bloomberg supporters last week, enclosing an invitation to meet Isaac Mizrahi, the fashion designer who endorsed Bloomberg.
Although Penn Dems has yet to endorse a candidate for the 2020 presidential primary, the group hosted an event to introduce the race's newest candidate in Philadelphia on Friday.
On Friday afternoon, Penn Dems partnered with Bloomberg's Pennsylvania campaign branch to host a discussion with prominent fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi at Woody’s, an LGBTQ bar and dance club in Center City. Bloomberg himself was not in attendance, but along with Mizrahi, Philadelphia First District city councilman Mark Squilla spoke on the former mayor's behalf. A crowd of roughly 30 Philadelphia locals, Bloomberg's campaign staff, and a few Penn Dems members attended the event.
College junior Voutsinas-Klose, who introduced Mizrahi to the crowd, said three members of Penn Dems attended. He also said two other members were turned away because Woody's would not let those under 21 into the space.
Voutsinas-Klose said he and Penn Dems currently do not publicly endorse any Democratic candidates, including Bloomberg. However, when Bloomberg's campaign reached out to him last week asking the club to host the event, Voutsinas-Klose said he thought it would be a good opportunity to provide Penn Dems members with more information about the candidate.
“We want Penn Dems to serve as a forum for the candidates. It was great to hear from such a cool speaker, but at the end of the day, as of now, we are still neutral, and we appreciate the opportunity to hear from any candidate," he said.
This is the only event of its kind that that Penn Dems has hosted during the 2020 election cycle, but the club would be open to having similar events for other candidates. Voutsinas-Klose stressed that the Bloomberg campaign is fairly active in the state as a whole, especially because it has opened five new Pennsylvania offices, in addition to the previous Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg locations.
Voutsinas-Klose said Penn Dems will likely announce their Democratic primary pick this April, although it remains possible that they will not endorse anyone at all.
During Mizrahi's brief speech, the New York native discussed how Bloomberg’s accomplishments as the former mayor of his hometown drew him to the candidate. He said Bloomberg’s gun violence prevention initiatives and support for the LGBTQ community during his tenure as mayor are some of the assets that make him a strong presidential candidate.
During his time as mayor, Bloomberg launched programs to address New York City’s issue with LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. He also helped lead the effort to pass marriage equality laws in the state and led initiatives within New York’s public health system mandating training surrounding disparities for LGBTQ+ patients.
Mizrahi even credited Bloomberg with aiding him in quitting his smoking habit.
“At first, I was furious when he banned smoking when he banned it in all bars, and everywhere I went [in New York] it was so difficult that I just stopped smoking. And that kind of incredible tough love, I think he’s very good at," he told the crowd.
After the speech, Mizrahi said he thinks the former mayor is the best candidate to defeat current president and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump.
“To me, it seems the country is at such a crossroads. It’s either going to happen that we get rid of Trump, or we just go on and march towards the real dismantling of democracy as we know it," Mizrahi said. “This is my opportunity to get involved in the conversation.”
College sophomore and Penn Dems Legislative Director Francois Barrilleaux also attended the event, but stressed the diversity of political opinion and support within Penn Dems.
"We have people in Penn Dems and in the greater Penn community that support Bloomberg, especially with so many people being from New York. But we also have members that support Biden, Warren, [and the other candidates] as well," Barrilleaux said. "We're just trying to foster engagement and discussion surrounding the 2020 race, and events like these can do that."
Voutsinas-Klose said he thinks Bloomberg’s New York mayorship was overall “pretty successful,” though he is not sure how successful Bloomberg will be when running against other Democratic moderates with similar policies. He said he has concerns about Bloomberg's support of stop and frisk laws, as well as allegations that the former mayor has made sexist remarks.
"While he was a good mayor of New York City, [Bloomberg] has a lot of questions he needs to answer," he said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Owen Voutsinas-Klose as a sophomore, while in fact he is a junior. The DP regrets this error.
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