March 17, 2009 / 7:16 PM / 10 years ago

Justice Department backs NYC mayor on term limits

NEW YORK, March 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department cleared one of the last obstacles to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid to seek a third term when it announced on Tuesday that it would not intervene in New York City’s new term-limit law.

The department said the law, which extended elected officials’ allowable time in office to three consecutive four-year terms from two, was not intended to and would not discriminate against racial and language minority groups.

The federal government reviews all changes to voting procedures to ensure they do not disenfranchise minorities.

“This approval ensures that the city can move forward with timely implementation of the law in preparation for the upcoming elections,” Michael Cardozo, the city’s lead attorney, said in a statement.

Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire who abandoned the Democratic Party to run as a Republican in the 2001 mayoral race, is running for a third term as an independent in November. Polls show him ahead of any rival despite some discontent over the term limit maneuvering.

Voters had elected to impose the two-term cap in 1993 and 1996, but Bloomberg pushed through the extension in City Council last year. The state legislature is now considering bills to force another referendum on the issue.

“We are clearly disappointed. We strongly believe the extension of term limits from two to three four-year terms adversely affects New York City’s racial and language minorities,” said Norman Siegel, a lawyer challenging the change.

Siegel said opponents of the term limits change would continue their battle on March 27 during an appeal of a federal court ruling that found city officials could legally extend their terms in office.

A municipal board examining potential conflicts of interest also has given the green light for the move. (Reporting by Edith Honan, editing by Daniel Trotta and Paul Simao)

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