Billionaire Tom Steyer officially entered the presidential race on Tuesday, saying he would seek the Democratic nomination for president despite having previously ruled out a run in January.
In a video released Tuesday morning, Steyer said, “if you think that there’s something absolutely critical, try as hard as you can and let the chips fall where they may. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. My name’s Tom Steyer, and I’m running for president.”
Steyer, who has teased political bids before without ever launching a campaign, never fully ruled out a 2020 run despite his January announcement, a source familiar with the situation previously told CNN.
Steyer has operated as a funding force in Democratic politics in recent years, bankrolling candidates and organizations that promote liberal causes, including the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Steyer’s net worth reached $1.6 billion this year according to Forbes, a fortune he began amassing in 1986 when he launched his hedge fund Farallon Capital.
The 2018 House races, which Steyer spent over $100 million on, marked the third consecutive election cycle in which Steyer spent millions supporting Democratic candidates. But it’s Steyer’s efforts to impeach Trump which have made him the most visible, starring in self-funded television commercials in which he calls on Congress to remove the President from office.
Steyer joins a crowded Democratic primary that has already participated in the first round of primary debates.
A CNN poll last month showed former Vice President Joe Biden leading the race with 22% support followed by California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who made steep gains following their debate performances.
Steyer’s late entry to the race makes it highly unlikely that he will qualify for the second round of Democratic debates hosted by CNN, set for the end of July. To make the stage in under three weeks, he’ll need to receive campaign contributions from 65,000 individuals and receive 1% support in at least three DNC-approved polls.
And Steyer will face immediate resistance by the already-crowded Democratic field. The New York Times reported that Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million on his bid, putting him directly at odds with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off private, high-dollar fundraising events during her primary campaign, and vocally criticized the political influence of billionaires and corporations.
In January, Warren said: “No to the billionaires, whether they are self-funding or whether they’re funding PACs. We are the Democratic Party, and that is the party of the people. That’s how we not only win elections, that’s how we build movements that make real change.”
And asked about Steyer’s possible entry to the race on Monday, Warren said that “every one of us should be held responsible for the kind of campaign we run. Period.”
She continued, “I’m careful about what I say about other Democrats, but there’s a second part. I don’t go to closed-door fundraisers, I don’t hang out with millionaires and corporate CEOs. I’m building a grassroots movement and I think as Democrats we should ask that of every single one of them. Do this grassroots style.”