California Gov. Gavin Newsom could face a challenger in the form of billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, who is reportedly polling the state’s recall effort to see if there’s interest in him succeeding the embattled governor.
Politico reports that a Steyer entity recently commissioned a poll on several issues that are close to him or impact the state, but the poll also asked residents if they were prepared to force Newsom to step down and offered a list of potential replacements, including Steyer, who has publicly opposed the recall effort as "a clear attempt by the GOP to take back control of the state and squelch the progressive momentum."
A spokesperson for Steyer told Politico to ask to speak to Steyer again in "late April." Politico notes that the deadline for registrars to validate signatures is April 29. Steyer himself declined to comment, but a source close to the former presidential candidate noted that he would be "very, very surprised if he is looking at the recall ballot."
Newsom’s political mentor, Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, told Politico that Democrats have to "do everything they can to keep a recall from happening," but added that the party "absolutely" ought to put forward an alternative.
"You can’t take the risk of Democrats losing the governorship," Brown said in an interview. "You’ve got to literally protect it … and it may be that the Democrats you put in can announce they are totally opposed to the recall."
Although Newsom and Steyer and both from San Francisco, Politico notes that they are not particularly close, though the governor did appoint Steyer to co-chair a blue-ribbon council on economics and business that included the chief executives of Disney and Apple, a move that Politico notes "was seen by some as a savvy attempt to keep Steyer and his political ambitions in check," though the panel was later disbanded.
According to Politico, Steyer has put himself forward as an alternative to a prominent California Democrat before. In 2015, when Vice President Kamala Harris ran for U.S. Senate, Steyer told potential supporters that he was thinking of entering the race with a focus on the environment, the economy, and education. Later, in 2017, he told allies that he was considering running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., saying at the time that the party wasn’t doing enough to confront then-President Donald Trump.
"Have they forgotten their moral duty not to allow America to behave in such a way as to imperil every soul on this planet?" Steyer told a friend in an email at the time.
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