Tom Steyer Is Not Running for Senate

Tom SteyerEXPAND
Tom Steyer
Fortune Live Media / via Flickr

Tom Steyer, the hedge fund billionaire who flirted with a run for U.S. Senate, announced on the Huffington Post today that he will not be a candidate. Burying the lead beneath several paragraphs about the American Dream, the pursuit of happiness, and the urgency of climate change, Steyer finally made it official:

"Given the imperative of electing a Democratic president — along with my passion for our state — I believe my work right now should not be in our nation's capital but here at home in California, and in states around the country where we can make a difference," he wrote.

The announcement leaves Kamala Harris as the sole announced candidate in the field, with former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several lesser known figures still mulling a run.

Steyer has focused single-mindedly on climate change. Over the last two weeks, he explored whether he could broaden his message around the theme of "justice," marrying "environmental justice" with "economic justice," and "educational justice." He also mulled running a different style of campaign — the words "open-sourced" and "disruptive" were used — and contemplated a one-term pledge.

He was indeed fairly open about exploring the campaign, publishing a column about climate change, doing an Ask Me Anything on Reddit and releasing polling that purported to show that he would be a strong candidate. It was not always the most graceful process, however. On Reddit, he fielded questions about his plaid ties while ducking ones about whether he would release his tax returns.

His polling memo also revealed the Steyer team's somewhat embarrassing code name for itself: Team Cincinnatus. (Cincinnatus, of course, was the Roman nobleman who thought about answering the call to public service — until he took a poll and thought better of it.)

From the start, it was fairly clear that Steyer would face major hurdles as a candidate. He is not well known, and though he happens to be quite wealthy, California does not have a great track record of electing billionaires to high office.

The decision to bow out will now put the focus on Villaraigosa. Steyer's decision may make Villaraigosa's path to victory a little harder. Had he run and caught on, Steyer might have taken white liberal votes from Harris, and could have threatened to split her Bay Area base. But with him out of the race, Villaraigosa has to worry about whether he can defeat Harris one-on-one.

Also potentially in the mix are Reps. Adam Schiff and Loretta Sanchez, both from Southern California.

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