Election 2020 Tom Steyer

Democratic presidential candidate businessman Tom Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, chat with people in the hallway of the Statehouse after he filed to be placed on the New Hampshire primary ballot Nov. 12 in Concord, N.H.

Tom Steyer is a political outsider with business experience who is promoting structural change and has long been an advocate for one of Democrats’ top issues: the environment.

That’s how the California businessman’s campaign manager sees it, and why Heather Hargreaves thinks Steyer has every chance to be successful in Iowa despite entering the race much later than most other candidates in the expansive field.

Hargreaves, during a recent phone interview, said she thinks Steyer is striking campaign chords that other candidates are not.

“I think that Tom is different than all the other candidates in that he is an outsider with a background having worked on these issues,” Hargreaves said. “That’s something we want to continue to talk about, and is one of the things we think why voters are responding to him.”

Steyer came onto the national political stage during the 2014 election cycle with an advocacy group devoted to the environment and climate change. The group organized in many states, including Iowa, and supported environment-friendly policies and candidates.

Now a presidential candidate, Steyer continues to talk often about climate change. During the recent presidential debate in Atlanta, he said he would make addressing climate change his top priority in office.

“Climate has been the issue that really brought Tom into politics over a decade ago. He started to really understand the challenge that the world is facing on climate,” Hargreaves said. “That’s what led him to start NextGen Climate and devote all of his time and his resources to addressing the issue and fighting for progressive change. And I think it’s one of the reasons that he entered the race for president: he feels that our climate crisis is an existential threat in our world right now, and if we don’t address it now, it’s going to have consequences for the economy, for the health of our country, and for the planet.”

Hargreaves also noted Steyer has been talking about structural political changes, like enacting term limits for members of Congress. Steyer’s TV and digital advertising campaigns highlight his support for term limits.

Hargreaves said those types of messages will help Steyer in areas that Democrats won in the past but went to Republican President Donald Trump in 2016.

“Donald Trump was speaking truth about how the system is not working for people. ... He was hitting on an important chord that the system isn’t working,” Hargreaves said, adding she thinks Trump as president has acted contrary to those messages. “Tom is the only (Democrat) out there talking about massive structural reform, including term limits.”

Organizing is critical to any successful Iowa caucus campaign, and Hargreaves conceded Steyer’s late entry presented challenges for the campaign.

“Obviously having started later than the other candidates we faced particular challenges building that out,” Hargreaves said. “But we’ve been happy with how that’s developed and are continuing to grow. And we’re seeing more and more people come on board with the team. And it’s really just about keeping up that momentum.”

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.


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