NEW YORK — For a long time, Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed to despise the very notion of changing a voter-approved law restricting elected officeholders to two terms in office.
When a bill reached his desk in 2002 that would have extended the terms for some officials, he vetoed it. He said the proposed law was wrong because elected officials shouldn’t be changing rules to benefit themselves politically.
But Bloomberg now appears to have reversed himself. He wants to change the law and run for a third term.
A person who has been briefed on the matter told The Associated Press that Bloomberg will announce Thursday that he will seek to overturn the term-limit law and run for another four years. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hasn’t been made.
Bloomberg, a former chief executive officer who started his career on Wall Street, will cite the nation’s precarious economic situation as the reason that New York needs a tested financial manager to stay on and guide the city, the person said.
The individual close to the mayor said his plan is to go through the City Council to extend the law to allow a third term because it is too late to get the issue on this year’s ballot.
Bloomberg quickly drew the scorn of term-limits supporters. Mark Green, the former city public advocate who lost to Bloomberg in 2001, called the move ‘‘an antidemocratic, self-dealing power grab.’’ Green said civic and labor officials had already been talking about mounting a pro-term-limits campaign should Bloomberg seek to overturn the law.
‘‘He’s picked a fight. And now he’ll get one,’’ he said.
The New York Times said in an editorial published Wednesday that it supports the idea of scrapping the term limits law: ‘‘This is a rule that needs to be abolished. If the voters don’t like the results, they can register their views at the polls.’’
The Daily News also said it supported a third term for Bloomberg. ‘‘Go for it, Mike,’’ an editorial in Wednesday’s editions implored. The city’s other major tabloid, the New York Post, said earlier this week that it supported the idea.
Bloomberg, who founded the financial information company Bloomberg LP and whose worth is estimated at $20 billion, winning re-election by 20 percentage points in 2005.
Bloomberg’s change of heart comes amid the nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The turmoil has dealt a serious blow to the city’s economy, which relies heavily on Wall Street profits for its tax base.
The decision follows a year in which he toyed with a White House bid, drawing constant speculation, before ultimately deciding against it.
If Bloomberg did seek another term, it will be politically risky, however. Polls have shown that the public supports the idea of term limits.
Chris Kelley, associate director of the government watchdog group Common Cause New York, accused Bloomberg of attempting to subvert the will of the voters, saying it was ‘‘an end-run around the voters’ choice’’ and ‘‘just incredibly disappointing.’’
After the Sept. 11 attacks, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani floated the idea of a three-month extension to his term to ease the transition of power. He also suggested overturning the city’s term-limits law, but ultimately decided against it. Even in the wake of the attacks, with Giuliani’s approval rating at 90 percent, one poll found that 55 percent of New York City voters opposed repealing term limits.
Democrats lining up to run include city Comptroller William Thompson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Rep. Anthony Weiner and city Councilman Anthony Avella. On the GOP side are supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis and lawyer Bruce Blakeman.
In 2006, Bloomberg scoffed at the notion that an individual could be truly irreplaceable.
‘‘My experience in business has been, whenever we’ve had somebody who was irreplaceable, their successor invariably did a better job, and I think change is good,’’ he said.
Associated Press reporters Samantha Gross and David B. Caruso in New York and Devlin Barrett in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.