Wealthy activist Tom Steyer says ‘I will decide soon’ on Senate run

Tom Steyer, shown speaking at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles in March 2014, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer.
Tom Steyer, shown speaking at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles in March 2014, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer.
(Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer on Tuesday made his first public remarks on why is weighing a bid for the seat that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is leaving.

“Holding office is a sacred trust in our society, and I am honored that so many colleagues and friends have encouraged me to consider entering this race. One thing is clear — Washington needs to be shaken up and we need climate champions who will fight for the next generation,” Steyer wrote in the Huffington Post. “California Democrats are blessed to have a deep bench of talent, and I will decide soon based on what I think is the best way to continue the hard work we have already started together to prevent climate disaster and preserve American prosperity.”

Steyer posted the piece hours after California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris kicked off her bid for the seat and began raising money. Others Democrats considering runs include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Garden Grove and others.


Steyer’s greatest strength is his ability to self-fund a campaign — his wealth is estimated at $1.6 billion. He has taken aggressive moves to study a run, including polling voters, hiring staff and consulting with top elected and labor leaders.

Among his chief obstacles is that the 57-year-old has never run for office before, and wealthy neophyte political candidates have not fared well among California voters in elections past.

Steyer was the largest individual donor in the recent midterm elections, spending $74 million on 2014 races. In the Huffington Post piece, he points to his political activism, a case he would make to voters if he decides to mount a bid.

Steyer highlighted his efforts fighting a ballot measure that would have overturned California’s landmark climate law, and pushing a measure that closed a loophole that allowed multistate companies to avoid paying taxes in California. He noted that he and his wife founded a nonprofit bank to make loans in underserved communities, and their nonprofit environmental group’s work to help children.

“I’ve always said that climate change is the defining issue of our generation,” Steyer wrote. “I’ve set out to hold candidates and elected officials accountable and to push our democracy to truly represent the interests of our kids.”

The former hedge fund titan compared California’s moves on climate change with inaction in Congress.


“[B]ecause of all the work done by so many people here in our state, California is on the move,” he wrote. “But there is a different picture in Washington. There, strong interests oppose recognizing global warming and fight against the rights and futures of average Americans. And there they are winning.”

“They don’t want to give all of our people a fair shake at the American dream if it means any threat to their corporate interests,” Steyer wrote. “People rail that democracy has been subverted to powerful economic interests, that ‘we the people’ have been overlooked. Based on what I have seen over the last several years, I fear there’s some truth in that charge, and that scares me — badly.”

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