New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg upended the city’s political scene last week by declaring he wanted to seek a third term if the City Council overturned term limits.

Voters twice approved terms limits in referendums in the 1990s but they have been unpopular with politicians affected by them. Legal challenges are likely if the council does repeal the limits. Bloomberg cited the city’s fiscal crisis as a rationale for his seeking reelection.

“I think term limits are a good thing,” Bloomberg said. “The question is, what is an appropriate length of time for people to learn, understand the magnitude of the problems, and then be effective?”

Bloomberg said he thought three terms was an appropriate length of time.

City Comptroller William Thompson Jr., who has been planning a mayoral run, sharply criticized the announcement.

“I am extremely disappointed in Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement,” Thompson said in a statement. “Today’s announcement constitutes an attempt to suspend democracy. We should not undermine the will of the voters.”

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