Billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer has privately told friends and associates in recent days that he plans to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to two Democrats familiar with the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.
While Steyer announced in January that he would not seek the White House, he has grown dissatisfied with the Democrats’ 2020 field and is now eager to jump into the contest, the people said, despite some of his confidants and friends warning him about the challenges and political cost of a bid.
The former hedge fund manager could make an announcement Tuesday, the people added, but a firm rollout plan is still being deliberated.
“You never know with Tom until he actually pulls the trigger, but he’s telling a lot of people he works with and trusts that he’s going to do it,” one of the Democrats said, when asked about the discussions. “He wants in.”
Steyer, 62, built his fortune running a hedge fund, Farallon Capital, but sold his shares in the company in 2012. Forbes estimates his net worth at about $1.6 billion — of which Steyer has committed half to charity, in accordance with a Giving Pledge he made.
A Steyer campaign would likely focus on impeaching and defeating President Trump and climate change — two causes that have animated Steyer’s advocacy and where he has become a prominent national voice. Steyer’s Need to Impeach group has generated a large membership list and held town halls across the nation.
But Steyer would not be the only liberal with that pitch in the field. Gov. Jay Inslee (Wash.), for instance, has made the environment central to his campaign and called Trump a threat to national security.
Steyer, one of the Democratic Party’s wealthiest activists, would bring both grass-roots know-how and immense capital to an already crowded race. And, having spent millions in the 2018 election cycle, he has a wide network of allies in the party even though some Democratic leaders are wary of him and the way he tried to pressure them to impeach Trump before the conclusion of the special counsel investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Heather Hargreaves, a veteran Democratic field organizer who worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign, is expected to manage the campaign, the people said. She is a top aide to Steyer and serves as executive director of NextGen America, a Steyer-founded advocacy group. Associates frequently describe Hargreaves as Steyer’s leading political strategist.
Steyer and Hargreaves did not respond to requests for comment late Sunday.
Steyer’s move toward a 2020 campaign was first reported by The Atlantic.
The super PAC Steyer founded in 2013 — NextGen Climate (now known as NextGen America) — contributed about $74 million to Democratic causes during the 2014 midterm elections — making him the single-biggest individual donor that year — as well as $96 million in 2016 and nearly $61 million during the 2018 midterms.
He has also contributed to numerous state-level campaigns and environmental initiatives in California, as well as to the presidential campaigns of John F. Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Obama.
Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.