State Watch

Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid


SACRAMENTO — Wealthy environmental activist Tom Steyer is taking steps toward joining the race to become California’s next governor, fielding a survey that tests his strengths and weaknesses in an increasingly crowded Democratic field.

Three Democratic sources with knowledge of Steyer’s poll said the retired hedge fund manager’s political team is querying whether California voters know Steyer, and whether they are leery of electing someone with no political experience to the state’s highest office. 

The poll also includes questions testing vulnerabilities of the front-runner in the primary race, Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), according to two of those sources.

Steyer’s team declined to confirm a poll was in the field, though it  didn’t deny that a survey was underway.

“It’s no secret that Tom Steyer is considering running for office, and he’ll make a decision later this year,” said Rose Kapolczynski, a top Steyer advisor. “We aren’t going to discuss our research program in the news media.”

{mosads}Kapolczynski is a prominent name in California Democratic circles: She ran all four of former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) successful Senate campaigns.

The decision to jump in the race would represent a reversal from earlier this year, when Steyer told The Hill and others he was considering skipping it. In an interview in January, Steyer said the election of President Trump threw him, and he had began to reconsider a political career that would have all but certainly started had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the White House.

“The world did not play out on Nov. 8 the way I expected it to, and I want to make sure whatever I do is well considered and responds to the reality of what’s going on,” Steyer told The Hill at the time. “I’m still intending to do the most impactful service I can in terms of standing up for the values I care most about.”

Steyer has shown a willingness to spend heavily on his own political causes. An outside group he financed, NextGen Climate, knocked on 10 million doors last year and registered 800,000 new California voters. Steyer was also the main face of a campaign to raise the tobacco tax, which many observers saw as a way to raise his own name identification.

The race to replace retiring Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has already drawn three prominent Democrats. Along with Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) and state Treasurer John Chiang (D) have made their bids official.

And at least one more prominent name is considering jumping in: state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D) is said to be considering his own run. De Leon, like Villaraigosa, has a political base in Los Angeles.

De Leon’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but several Democratic sources said the political world has been buzzing about his potential candidacy in recent days. De Leon faces term limits in 2018.

All the major announced and potential candidates are set to address more than 3,300 delegates at the state Democratic convention this weekend in Sacramento.

Tags Barbara Boxer Hillary Clinton

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