Steyer won’t run for US Senate; attention turns to Villaraigosa

23 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Billionaire Tom Steyer won’t run to replace retiring California Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Thursday he will not be a candidate to succeed U.S. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a roomful of mayors Thursday night thinking he might give them a taste of his possible plans for a U.S.

LOS ANGELES — The supposedly crowded race to succeed Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who is not seeking re-election in 2016, just became less crowded. Senate seat. “I just want you to know that there’s press here in the back of the room,” said Villaraigosa, a 61-year-old Democrat. “So I have an important announcement to make: The dessert will be served in just a moment.” The chatter back home in California and around Washington as the U.S. Barbara Boxer, saying that he wants to focus his efforts on electing a Democratic president in 2016. “My decision about whether to engage from the outside or seek elected office came down to a single question: How best can I fight for a level playing field at this point?” Mr. Speculation grew Thursday, as one of the possible leading contenders, the billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, announced earlier in the day that he would not be running.

Steyer, a former hedge fund manager who gave $74 million last year to candidates who vowed to fight global warming, said he thought he could do more as a private citizen than as a senator to promote justice in education, the economy and the environment. “This was a very hard decision,” he wrote on the Huffington Post website. “The U.S. Senate offers a unique opportunity to serve, but I also know that we will have excellent candidates.” After Boxer’s announcement two weeks ago that she would not seek reelection, Steyer said he was seriously considering a run — a daunting prospect for opponents who could not match the personal fortune at his disposal for advertising. Several people in the room shouted “senator,” and someone else yelled “governor,” referring to the possibility that Villaraigosa could wait until 2018 and run to succeed term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown. “We’re all just reading about what may or may not happen,” Johnson told Villaraigosa. “But you know you’ve got a whole lot of mayors who are going to stand with you, no matter what you decide.” Villaraigosa was in Washington to present the Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award to Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

But Villaraigosa, who turns 62 on Friday, has spent two weeks seeking advice and trying to build support in private meetings and phone conversations with elected officials, party luminaries, fundraisers and campaign consultants. Latino political leaders have been peeved, according to numerous published accounts, that Harris was being anointed by Democratic leaders as the senator-in-waiting without waiting for Villaraigosa or some other Latino figure, such as Rep.

Villaraigosa, a past president of the mayors’ conference, was its first recipient. “I used to play in the NBA and I got a few awards,” he said. “But this one was kind of cool, so I moved the other ones aside and put this one front and center.” Seeking to make climate change an issue, he poured about $74 million into 2014 races. “The road we take may be less traveled and less well marked, but I am very determined. His candidacy would set up a political clash between Los Angeles and San Francisco, where fellow Democrat Harris was district attorney from 2004 to 2010. Staying out of the Senate race was a difficult decision, Steyer said in Thursday’s post, in which he did not endorse Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only announced Democratic candidate so far to succeed Boxer. “The U.S.

A key question is whether he could mobilize broad enough support in Southern California to offset Harris’ strength in the Bay Area, a bastion of liberal Democrats. He also refused to say whether he had discussions while in Washington with two California Latinos in the House who, like Villaraigosa, are considering a Senate run. There would be a heavy field of Democratic hopefuls for either position in 2018, which makes a one-on-one duel against Harris a better option – and waiting longer would mean his name identification and image would fade further.

On the GOP side, former California Republican Party chair Tom Del Beccaro has announced he is weighing a bid for the Senate seat in the heavily Democratic state. The race is the first Senate contest without an incumbent under California’s four-year-old top-two primary system, in which the two top vote-getters in a single, all-party primary face each other in the general election regardless of political party.

Villaraigosa is from Southern California, which has historically been a disadvantage for candidates in statewide races; voter turnout tends to be lower here. Villaraigosa’s 2005 election as the first Latino mayor of modern Los Angeles symbolized the ascendancy of Latinos as a major political force in California. Steyer, who would have presumably held a significant spending advantage in a race that is expected to hit $100 million, jumped into politics last year through his organization NextGen Climate, which focuses on promoting climate change as a campaign issue.

He spent roughly $74 million in the 2014 midterm elections and was the largest public donor, although his preferred candidates lost crucial Senate races in Colorado and Iowa, along with gubernatorial contests in Florida and Maine. As Gale Kaufman, a Democratic strategist, put it recently, few players even in his own party know him, “beyond the cocktail party level.” His considerable resources would help some; but his wealth also would have been a vulnerability. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said he had planned to launch an effort opposing Steyer “almost immediately.” Steyer’s efforts to create a political movement around his own agenda alienates Republicans and Democrats alike, Stutzman said. “He started to receive a lot of scrutiny last year, and I think that will pale in comparison to what he would have to endure as a candidate,” he said. Riordan, who ran for governor in 2002, offered that if Steyer chooses to run for the office in 2018, he needs to take some time to build a reputation in California “different than who he is now.” “Nobody has a feel for who Tom is,” said Riordan, adding that Steyer’s qualifications could make him a good fit for governor. “He’s a brilliant guy; he can manage very well.

And his frequent travels, which raised his national profile, set off grumbling at City Hall that he was more focused on personal ambition than the day-to-day job of running the city. The same year, Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, spent $5 million of her own money and was beaten by Boxer. “The history of California politics is littered with the carcases of wealthy candidates on both sides of the aisle,” said Ruben Barrales, a former aide in the George W. During his tenure, he secured billions of dollars in public transit money, much of it for rail-line expansion, and the city made a big shift from coal-fired power plants to solar and wind energy. They want to like you,” Riordan said. “If they like you, you’re successful.” If Steyer runs, a probable opponent would be Democrat Gavin Newsom, the current lieutenant governor.

Research she’s reviewed suggests voters harbor no ill will toward wealthy candidates and “actually admire successful people.” “California voters don’t punish wealthy candidates,” Kapolczynski said. “The question is, what did you do with that success? Unified School District failed, but Villaraigosa used his clout to influence its leadership and oversee a small group of low-performing schools that made academic gains. Newsom released a statement Thursday after Steyer’s announcement. “Any political race would certainly be elevated by Tom’s perspective and passion but I respect his decision,” Newsom said. Since leaving office, Villaraigosa has worked as an advisor to nutritional products company Herbalife Ltd., the Banc of California and the global public relations firm Edelman. Later in an interview with KCBS, he was asked about the attention Steyer is getting about a run in four years – either for governor, or Senate. “Tom is worthy of that buzz,” Newsom said.

Do you understand their concerns?” Before becoming a player in state politics, Steyer joined with leading Democrats in opposing a GOP-led initiative proposal in 2007 that sought to change the way electoral votes are awarded in presidential races. Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights group, has criticized Villaraigosa for advising the company, which has battled allegations that it runs an illegal pyramid scheme and preys on Latino entrepreneurs. In 2010, Steyer pumped $5 million into the campaign to defeat Proposition 23, a measure sponsored by Texas oil interests to roll back California’s 2006 law on greenhouse gas emissions. Villaraigosa has defended Herbalife, saying it was “a solid member of the Los Angeles business community and a strong presence within the Latino community.” Another uncertainty is who else might get into the race. He also gave $1 million to the unsuccessful campaign to quash Proposition 26, which requires a two-thirds legislative vote to pass many new fees and taxes.

Closer to home, Steyer contributed more than $30 million to pass Proposition 39, a state ballot measure that changed the state’s corporate income tax structure, adding $1 billion to government coffers for clean energy projects at schools and other public buildings. But it is unclear how he could frame a candidacy with enough statewide appeal to compete with Harris, who hopes to run especially strongly among women, or Villaraigosa. Harris has won two statewide elections as attorney general, and her immigrant heritage — Indian mother, Jamaican father — could enhance her appeal among Democrats. “If Antonio Villaraigosa gets in it, these are the two big kahunas,” said Garry South, a consultant who has spoken extensively with the former mayor in recent days. “Anyone else becomes a bit player.”

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