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Tom Steyer's campaign to impeach Trump strikes a chord with both sides

Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer has pulled off a rarity in this hyper-charged partisan age: He raised the ire of both President Donald Trump and the president's Democratic nemesis, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

That unlikely pairing is thanks to the $10 million worth of nationwide TV ads calling for Trump's impeachment that Steyer launched in late October.

The president lashed out at Steyer in a tweet, deriding him as "wacky & totally unhinged." Pelosi expressed her displeasure behind closed doors, reportedly telling party leaders that Steyer's campaign could distract from tangible Democratic efforts to stifle Trump's Washington agenda.

But the ad clearly resonated with Trump's detractors and supporters: 1.5 million people have signed Steyer's online petition supporting impeachment. Along with airing during the World Series, the spot ran on Fox News only to be pulled over negative reactions from viewers, according to the network.

The impeachment campaign has also again stirred speculation over whether Steyer might launch a bid for office in California. Steyer has been weighing a run for California governor for more than a year, long enough for some California Democrats to express fatigue over his continuous flirtations.

Steyer also hasn't ruled out a run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who already faces a challenge from fellow Democratic state Senate leader Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles and other members of her own party. Feinstein, not coincidentally, caught heat from California liberals in September when she refused to back the idea of impeaching of Trump.

That's on top of Steyer's other forays into politics and public policy. The former hedge fund manager from San Francisco has spent millions bankrolling Democratic candidates and progressive ballot measures, registering voters across the nation and offering legal protection to farmworkers and immigrants who entered the country illegally.

He helped launch campaigns to encourage immigrants to run for office, and he supports battles against seven vulnerable California Republicans in Congress. On Tuesday, Steyer will be in Virginia to rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, who's in a tight race against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie. And there's the tens of millions Steyer's nonprofit, NextGen America, has spent on environmental and other causes.

"I think we're in an urgent crisis," Steyer said Thursday. "I'm willing to do anything, including run for office."

A governor's race poll released in March by the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies put Steyer's support in the single digits when compared with the well-known Democrats in the race.

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