News Column

Bloomberg Boning Up On Spanish As Reelection Campaign Begins

March 10, 2009


mayor Bloomberg, spanish lessons, michael Bloomberg, new york

When it comes to learning another language, there's no better motivator than political survival.

So seems to be the case for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, in an effort to connect with the region's most rapidly growing population, started taking Spanish lessons a few years ago.

Last week, just days before the launch of his reelection campaign, the man who was listed in Forbes as the eighth-richest American in 2008 conducted his first local news conference in Spanish, without the aid of a tutor, the Associated Press reported.

His quest to learn the language stemmed from a desire for more airtime on WXTV, the Spanish-language Univision affiliate, whose ratings last fall surged past those of its English competitors on ABC, CBS and NBC for viewers younger than 49, the AP reported .

The number of the city's registered voters who are Hispanic or Latino has increased from 676,000 to 860,000 in two years -- or from 17.8 percent of the electorate to 20.5 percent.

During the last election, Bloomberg, who left the Republican Party in 2007 to become an independent, garnered about a quarter of the Hispanic vote in the contest against his challenger, Fernando Ferrer, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

This time around, he is likely to face one of two leading Democratic contenders, Comptroller William Thompson Jr. and Rep. Anthony Weiner, both of whom speak conversational Spanish at public events. Like Bloomberg, they too have taken Spanish lessons, the AP reported.

Bloomberg made a fortune by investing part of the $10 million severance package he received from an investment bank in 1981 into a startup company providing software tools to financial companies around the world. It was eventually named Bloomberg L.P., and in the late 1980s expanded into a global news service.

In 2001, Bloomberg gave up his position as CEO to run for mayor.

In 2005, Bloomberg's news service made a a foray into the U.S. Spanish-language market, launching Negocios con Bloomberg, a business supplement to the El Nuevo Herald, which is an affiliate of the Miami Herald.

Source: (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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