Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist who toyed with a 2020 presidential run before deciding against it, has told people he plans to announce that he’s entering the race for the Democratic nomination, according to three people familiar with his plans. Steyer had said in January that he was passing on a 2020 run.
Steyer held a private conference call last week to announce to people who work for Need to Impeach, NextGen America and Steyer’s Sacramento office that he was planning to run, according to one of the people.
Story Continued Below
There has been increasing chatter in recent months among those in Steyer’s circle about a potential run, according to two of the people, and one of the people said they expect him to talk a lot in his campaign about the economy given his background as a former hedge fund manager.
“He’s definitely focused on the [fact that the] economy is not as good as people are making it out to be,” said the person, who didn’t know the reason Steyer is making an about-face on his earlier decision.
“I think his heart’s in the right place. If he’s doing this, he’s got a reason behind it,” the person said. “He’s a very intelligent man.”
The person said that Steyer has gotten significantly better as a campaigner over the last year because he’s done town hall meetings, particularly attended by older Americans, and a lot of face-to-face campaigning through the impeachment campaign.
Though no senior staffing has been announced, two of the people with knowledge of Steyer’s plans expect Heather Hargreaves, who has been executive director of Steyer-founded NextGen America and has worked for Steyer for almost four years, to run the campaign. Steyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and Hargreaves declined to comment.
Steyer’s entrance into the Democratic primary field would be comparably late, with a field that already numbers about two dozen candidates. Some of them have struggled with name identification and the requirements to qualify for Democratic primary debates, challenges Steyer would also face.
Another issue for Steyer could be assembling a campaign staff, as some staffers who have worked for him in the past have already migrated to other campaigns. Alex Fujinaka, now the deputy political director for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s campaign, and Maggie Thomas, the deputy policy director for Inslee, are both alums of Steyer’s NextGen America group. Inslee has made climate change, which would be a key issue for Steyer, the central issue of his campaign.
Steyer has considered running for office before, including for governor of California in 2018 and the Senate in 2016. He spent $120 million on the 2018 midterms.
Back in January, in downtown Des Moines, Steyer told reporters: “Most people come to Iowa around this time to announce a campaign for the presidency. But I am proud to be here to announce that I will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to remove a president, not because I disagree with his policies — not because we have different ideologies — but because the people must do what our elected officials have been unable or unwilling to do: Hold President Trump accountable.”
He announced then that he was planning more ads calling for Trump’s impeachment, an effort he’s spent millions to promote.
David Siders and Carla Marinucci contributed to this story.