Apr 18, 2018

Tom Steyer is getting involved in Democrat-on-Democrat races

Kevin de Leon (left) and Tom Steyer (right). Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic activist, has announced he will endorse Kevin de León, Senator Dianne Feinstein's progressive challenger in California, per LA Times.

Why this matters: The endorsement goes against what Steyer previously told Axios, which is that he wouldn't endorse specific Democratic candidates. "We feel as long as they’re good Democrats then we will try to stay out of it," he said back in January. "We have done it very rarely, only if we really feel that there’s a Democrat who doesn’t live up to large D Democratic principles."

Steyer supports de León in part because he represents the growing progressive base under the Democratic Party, particularly on things like immigration rights, health care and climate change. "Our work together on behalf of all Californians has assured me that he would be the champion of California's priorities and values," Steyer said in a statement. "Kevin de León has proven himself to be the best of the next generation."

  • Steyer joins a growing list of notable endorsements for de León, from the Nurses Union to the California Labor Federation, which as 2.1 million members.

But, but, but: Ousting Sen. Feinstein won't be easy — she's served in Congress for 25 years, has $10 million in cash on hand compared to de León's $670,000, and has been leading him in the polls.

The elephant in the room: Impeachment. Steyer has been leading an impeachment campaign for which he is now traveling around the country holding town halls with voters. The question is whether impeachment becomes a litmus test for which candidates he endorses.

  • "This isn’t a litmus test on impeachment, but he’s happy to support leaders who are not afraid to do the right thing and stand up to Donald Trump," said Aleigha Cavalier, NextGen America's communications director.
  • But in a recent email from his Need To Impeach campaign ahead of Steyer's town hall in Iowa, the group called out Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack for voting against Rep. Al Green's impeachment resolution earlier in the year.

Bottom line: Steyer's involvement has the potential to significantly change things for Democrats across the country. He has the financial resources to boost a second-place candidate and his progressive platform matches the activists trying to push the party farther to the left.

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