Capitol Alert

Tom Steyer says he doesn’t like getting enmeshed in Democratic legislative fights

Democrat Tom Steyer says Donald Trump 'living an unreal fantasy'

Tom Steyer, billionaire environmentalist and potential candidate for governor in 2018, spoke to the California delegation at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia.
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Tom Steyer, billionaire environmentalist and potential candidate for governor in 2018, spoke to the California delegation at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia.

Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist and Democratic benefactor, is throwing cold water on the idea of wading into a fractious California legislative fight between an incumbent backed by business interests and her environmental challenger.

Steyer, in a recent interview between meetings in Sacramento, said he was not interested in crashing all-Democratic runoffs and instead is directing his resources toward registering and engaging voters, with a particular focus on milennials.

“We feel like that is the best thing to get the best decisions across the board in California from the top to the bottom of the ballot,” Steyer said. “Our success in doing that, regardless of its impact on any specific race, will be our measure of success for 2016. More than any of the props. More than anything else.”

“If everybody shows up and has information and they make a decision than I am going to think they’ll make a great decision,” he added.

The intraparty standoff between Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown of San Bernardino and Eloise Gomez Reyes of Grand Terrace is seen as a proxy fight between powerful Capitol interest groups at odds over climate change legislation. Since the start of the year, Brown has taken in more than $900,000 in contributions to Gomez Reyes’ $400,000. Outside groups have registered their interest by dumping large amounts behind their preferred campaign.

In California, Steyer has spent more than $3 million this year on political causes, including writing large checks to the state Democratic Party, county central committees and voter registration drives. This summer, he focused on passing an increase in the state tobacco tax and helping voters have a say in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Steyer also has run TV ads crediting California’s clean air laws for reducing pollution and creating jobs and separate spots ripping Donald Trump.

His NextGen California organization, however, did establish a committee and put $500,000 behind protecting Sen. Jim Beall of San Jose, who is being challenged by fellow Democrat and Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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