ST. LOUIS — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has put on the payroll 28 staffers across Missouri, dwarfing the number of people hired in the state so far by his opponents for the Democratic nomination.
“We are building a Missouri team that is unmatched in talent and focused on positioning Mike to defeat Donald Trump in November,” said Ryan Hawkins, a St. Louis-based political consultant who is heading the state effort with his business partner, Grant Campbell.
The two both formerly worked in campaign organizations tied to former President Barack Obama.
A news release issued by the billionaire businessman’s campaign said the Missouri staffers are among more than 500 hired in more than 30 states.
Bloomberg, who isn’t taking part in the first four states picking Democratic convention delegates next month, is focusing on Missouri and other states that will vote later. Missouri’s presidential primary is March 10.
Bloomberg also has spent heavily on television advertising in his bid to try to rise from mid-single-digit support in national polls, crossing the $200 million threshold on Friday, according to Advertising Analytics, a tracking firm. That nearly equals the $222 million spent by the rest of the field.
Lauren Gepford, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party, said Bloomberg’s paid hires in the state compare to five to eight for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and one for former Vice President Joe Biden. Gepford said volunteer efforts also are underway for other candidates.
Noe Gonzalez, who recently quit Mayor Lyda Krewson’s staff to become Biden’s paid lead Missouri organizer, said “you can’t buy an election with money.”
He said he has been concentrating lately on sending Missouri volunteers to campaign for Biden in Iowa leading up to that state’s upcoming caucuses.
“We have a lot of support in the state for Joe Biden,” Gonzalez said. “Voters are going to be able to tell the difference between someone paid to support (a candidate) and someone who volunteers willingly.”
Volunteer contingents from the state also have been going to Iowa to campaign for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, said St. Louis Alderman Megan Green, a prominent local Sanders supporter. Green also is a member of the Democratic National Committee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.