Bloomberg to Speak at Prominent Black Church Sunday

Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will deliver remarks on Sunday at a predominantly black megachurch in East New York, choosing a crucial Democratic constituency — African-American voters — as the audience for his first speech since he re-emerged as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.

The speech is the latest in a series of steps that Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire and former three-term mayor of New York, has taken in the last 10 days to lay the groundwork for entering the Democratic presidential primary, which appears increasingly imminent.

He has already filed to be on the primary ballot in two states, Arkansas and Alabama. His advisers have outlined a strategy that would circumvent the early four states that vote first in the 2020 nomination contest in favor of the broader map on Super Tuesday where he could leverage his personal fortune.

And he announced plans to spend $100 million on digital ads against President Trump in key general election battleground states, blunting criticism that he could spend his money better elsewhere. Those ads would not feature him, advisers said, and the spending would be in addition to what he might spend on his own candidacy.

Mr. Bloomberg’s record on race — and in particular his steady defense of the deeply controversial policing strategy known as “stop-and-frisk” — is widely seen as one of his biggest vulnerabilities if he runs in the Democratic primary, where black voters have helped determine the winner in the last nomination contests, elevating President Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The stop-and-frisk program, forcefully defended by Mr. Bloomberg for years, gave New York police officers sweeping authority that resulted in hundreds of thousands of street stops, which disproportionately targeted black and Latino men. Mr. Bloomberg regularly argued it was necessary to curb crime.

But the program — which a federal judge ruled violated the constitutional rights of minorities in the city — has been almost entirely phased out in the last seven years, beginning in Mr. Bloomberg’s final year and then aggressively by his successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Crime rates have mostly continued to drop.

Still, Mr. Bloomberg, 77, has consistently defended the program. “I think people, the voters, want low crime,” Mr. Bloomberg told The New York Times last year. “They don’t want kids to kill each other.”

Mr. Bloomberg is slated to speak is the Christian Cultural Center on Sunday morning. The church’s pastor, the Rev. A. R. Bernard, is a longtime ally and former adviser to Mr. Bloomberg.