"I have carefully stayed away from politics for 50 years, except to vote," she's said. "But times have changed in our country"

Judge Judy is playing back the tape and again endorsing former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg for president — and this time it’s official official.

The judge-turned-daytime TV judge, whose real name is Judy Sheindlin, first announced her endorsement for Bloomberg, 77, back in October with an op-ed in USA Today, which raised some eyebrows because he hadn’t yet announced he was running for president.

“I have carefully stayed away from politics for 50 years, except to vote,” she wrote then. “But times have changed in our country, and I believe the moment has come for me to step out from behind the curtain.”

Sheindlin, 77, made her endorsement doubly real on Monday morning in a new ad for Bloomberg. (She’ll also appear on The View on Monday to discuss her endorsement.)

“America is fractured,” she tells PEOPLE. “People are angry with each other because of their politics and it doesn’t feel like a family anymore.”

Bloomberg’s time running the country’s largest city and his years as a businessman were key selling points, as were some of his opinions on free speech.

“There isn’t anybody that could compare to Mike Bloomberg,” Sheindlin says.

Of the rest of the field, she says, “You have somebody who is a No. 2 guy and a senator — you have two senators.”

She also took a soft swing at Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor in Indiana and the country’s first leading gay candidate for president.

“You have a very lovely young man who ran a very small town for a very short time. If you were the governor of Indiana, you would still be governing two million people less than New York City,” Sheindlin says.

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg
| Credit: Michael Ciaglo/Getty

Bloomberg — who served as New York City’s mayor from 2002 until 2013 — joined the crowded Democratic presidential field on Nov. 24, in a longshot bid only a few months before primary voting begins.

Still, some in his orbit touted his vast personal fortune as the head of an eponymous business and media company. Advisers said this would be a strength, allowing an immense amount of advertising.

Some have also pointed to Bloomberg’s somewhat unorthodox political background as attractive to an abstract moderate coalition, given his record (and him having switched parties multiple times over the years).

Still, that record also came under new scrutiny. In an unusual move for Bloomberg, he distanced himself from some of his decisions and behavior.

He has been criticized for his “stop and frisk” policing policy during his tenure as mayor, given that it largely targeted people of color. He apologized last year.

His history of sometimes demeaning comments about women was also denounced by his campaign. “He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life,” an aide told The New York Times.

“I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America,” Bloomberg said when he announced his run. “We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions.”

Judge Judy Sheindlin
Judge Judy Sheindlin
| Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Sheindlin tells PEOPLE she’s known about Bloomberg for the last 25 years but has only spoken to the Democratic candidate once over the phone, when the pair discussed the importance of free speech.

“When I was looking at the field of candidates, I came across an article that he wrote about the work of civil discourse on university campuses and the frightening trend he saw that as to become sort of myopic in your thinking and only one idea was tolerated,” she says, adding that the country “needs somebody who believes you have the right to differ in your opinion” and that “differences of opinion have to be respected.”

As the Democratic primary nears the start of actual voting, in early February, more and more celebrities are getting involved to back their preferred candidates.

To name a few: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner, is supported by director Rob Reiner; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has soccer star Megan Rapinoe‘s vote; and in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ corner? Cardi B.

Sheindlin feels differently though.

“I could understand why people have gravitated to one or more of the current field,” she says, “but Mike Bloomberg is the only one who has the experience to hit the ground running.”