“We have got to take back democracy. I believe it’s gonna have to take someone from the outside, who has been doing it for a long time.”
In two sentences, Tom Steyer, the latest Democrat to enter the presidential primary race, summarized his pitch to voters at an event Wednesday at Manny’s, a restaurant and civic events space in the Mission District, in front of a crowd of around 200 people.
Steyer, a former CEO and major Democratic donor who launched his presidential bid on June 9th, said he was entering the race to fight corporations and act on climate change.
He called himself an “outsider” against “corporations taking over democracy” and said he would spend $100 million of his own funds for the campaign.
“What do we need to break the back of this corporate control? Will this come from the inside? It’s coming from the outside,” said Steyer, who called Donald Trump “a fraud.”
He said his experience as a former chief executive officer of Farallon Capital, a San-Francisco-based investment fund he founded in 1986 and left in 2012, and his ten-year-long travels across America makes him the most suitable candidate to beat Donald Trump, the incumbent president.
At least one person challenged Steyer, whose net worth is reported to be around $1.6 billion, during a question session following the 50-minute discussion.
“Do you think that your wealth is problematic?” asked one attendee.
Steyer said he took the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic movement of billionaires pledging to give half of their income to donations, and argued that nobody owned him because he is independently wealthy.
As recently as January, Steyer had disavowed any plan to run for president, saying he would instead focus on his Need To Impeach initiative, a campaign for which he runs televised ads calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment.
He changed his mind, however, after Congress refused to allow more than one televised hearing on impeachment, a decision he called a “very straightforward failure of government.”
Reactions from those in the crowd, most of whom seemed to have not yet decided who they would vote for, were mixed.
“I’m sold. He’s got the right vision,” said Aaron Belkin, 53, director of Take Back the Court and a political science professor at San Francisco State University.
Others, like Jonathan Lack, a 27-year-old software engineer, thought senators Elisabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris were still “more meaningful.”
Still, there is a looming challenge ahead for the former CEO.
Steyer, who entered the race late, failed to qualify for the second 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates’ debate taking place on CNN on July 30th and 31st in Detroit, MI.
He will need to reach 1 percent in support in three polls from an approved list of pollsters or get donations from 65,000 donors, including 200 each from 20 States, to be included in the third television debates on ABC News on September 12th and 13th.
“We don’t need the money, we need the people,” said Steyer.