Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, using Donald Trump as his foil, pledged to Democratic activists early this year that he would spend heavily this election cycle to “awaken our sleeping progressive giant,” a bloc he described as the millions of Californians “who are on our side but don’t vote.”
On Monday, the last day to register for the Nov. 8 election, he announced some progress to that end. Steyer said his NextGen organizations have registered 1 million voters, including 743,000 new voters in California and 294,000 in battleground states. In a statement, Steyer called the surge, a “positive signal about the future of our country.”
“We believe the broadest democracy is the best democracy,” he said.
For Steyer, a potential gubernatorial candidate, the massive registration effort also is part of a broadening of his agenda beyond climate change policy. The hedge fund manager-turned political activist has been working on issues of poverty and housing by assembling and meeting with panels of experts, and he’s co-chairing a fall initiative, Proposition 56, that would increase the state’s tobacco taxes by $2 per-pack of cigarettes. On Monday, he will report contributing another $3.5 million to the effort, which currently has him starring in a pair of TV ads.
To achieve the 1 million-voter milestone, Steyer said he partnered with more than 60 community groups across 30 counties, including Planned Parenthood, Latino Community Foundation and Democratic Party chapters. Many of the registrations came through paid mailings, targeted digital ads online and field programs. Steyer maintains a reporting system that includes verification with the voter rolls. His focus on seven swing states, from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Nevada, is part of NextGen’s $25 million initiative to engage young people.
A record 18.2 million people are registered to vote in California. The deadline to register for next month’s general election is today.