Capitol Alert

Steyer won’t run in 2018, but leaves door open for 2020

Candidates for statewide office in California can breathe a sigh of relief: Liberal activist Tom Steyer is not running for office in 2018. Instead, he’s going to plough millions of dollars into his two national political organizations, NextGen America and Need to Impeach, to try to oust Republicans from office.

In the process, the billionaire investor can continue to build his personal political brand ahead of 2020. He declined to speculate on his political future Monday, but pointedly did not rule out a presidential run. “We are all in through November 6, 2018,” Steyer said. “We really don’t have the ability to know what’s going to happen after that.”

Given Steyer’s wealth and national following, the billionaire investor was considered the X-factor in the race for governor and Senate, though his behavior in recent weeks suggested he was unlikely to jump into either race. Steyer confirmed that in Washington, D.C. Monday morning.

The campaign trail is “not where I can make the biggest difference,” he said at a press conference not far from the U.S. Capitol. The “most important task for me is … organizing and mobilizing America’s voters.” To that end, Steyer said he planned to invest $30 million in NextGen America for grassroots organizing in ten states: Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

He also promised to “redouble” his impeachment campaign against President Donald Trump, though he refused to put a dollar figure on how much he would spend this year on that front. “We are really focused on removing this president,” Steyer said. Since launching a series of television ads last October calling for Trump’s impeachment, roughly 4 million people have signed an online petition calling for the president’s ouster.

In a statement released after the press conference, Need to Impeach said its “digital army will be central to an unprecedented engagement effort targeting Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have so far failed to support removing Trump from office.” But Steyer insisted to reporters he did not plan to campaign against Democrats who do not get behind Trump’s impeachment.

“What we are going to try to do is ...enable the voice of the American people to demand action from their representatives as opposed to making it some kind of litmus test,” Steyer said. NextGen America, meanwhile, will be working to mobilize young people and getting them to the polls in November. The group plans to target eight Senate races, nine gubernatorial races, and more than 30 Congressional districts “in an effort to flip Congress back to Democratic control,” the release said.

At his press conference, Steyer specifically called out House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republican colleagues Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Darrell Issa of California. Issa, who represents parts of Orange and San Diego Counties, is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country this year.

Emily Cadei: 202-383-6153, @emilycadei