On Thursday, Tom Steyer announced he would not be running for California’s open Senate seat in 2016. But the San Francisco billionaire didn’t rule out running for all public offices, saying his work should focus on California, not Washington– opening up the possibility that the environmentalist will seek the governorship in the next election.
“It is now no longer a question of if, or when, but what office,” a source close to Steyer told the Hill newspaper.
Steyer’s reasoning for not opting to run for Senate in 2016 after Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer retires was because he thought he could make the most impact in California. Steyer said his “work right now should not be in our nation’s capitol, but here at home in California and in states around the country where we can make a difference.”
California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown will leave office in 2018 due to term limits. It’s been hinted that Brown may make a presidential run in 2016, even though he would be 82 by the time he actually took office. Steyer could run for Brown’s seat in 2016 or 2018.
With a net worth of $1.6 billion, Steyer could fund his own campaign and would not have to do much fundraising. Stayer has also built environmental campaign groups throughout the state — and the country — that could conceivably aid him in a run for the governor’s office.
Steyer, however, also hinted he might continue his current path, funding environmental activists and Democratic candidates for office.
“Going forward, I intend to redouble my efforts working with partners and fellow citizens to push for change,” Steyer wrote in the Huffington Post. “The road we take may be less traveled and less well-marked, but I am very determined. The journey is far from over — in fact, it has just begun.”
This is where many environmentalists want him to be– bankrolling campaigns opposing fossil fuels and promoting green energy and environmental regulations. In fact, some liberal pundits openly opposed his Senate candidacy.
“For the first time, climate interests had the funding to go head-to-head with the fossil fuel industry,” wrote The New Republic’s Rebecca Leber in a piece opposing Steyer’s Senate run. “Green groups pushed Democratic candidates in a more hawkish direction and GOP candidates to waver on their conservative positions.”
“Don’t do it, Tom!” Salon’s Luke Brinker wrote. “Moreover, from a purely strategic, bench-building perspective, Sen. Steyer makes little sense” because of factors like his age.
Liberals also worried about Steyer’s vast personal wealth essentially disappearing from the national stage and being focused on retaining a “safe” Senate seat in California, a solidly Democratic state.
Last election, Steyer spent $74 million of his own money backing Democratic candidates and causes. But his election spending saw little success in 2014, as four of the seven Senate races he spent money and time in were lost to Republicans. He was only involved in three Senate battleground state victories, but Democrats were already favored to win in these states.
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