FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2019 file photo, billionaire investor and Democratic activist Tom Steyer speaks during a news conference where he announced his decision not to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Steyer is now joining the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, reversing course after deciding earlier this year that he would forgo a run.
WASHINGTON — Tom Steyer, the billionaire investor and activist, said Tuesday he's joining the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, reversing course after deciding earlier this year that he would forgo a run.
Steyer, 62, is one of the most visible and deep-pocketed liberals advocating for President Donald Trump's impeachment. He surprised many Democrats in January when he traveled to Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucus, to declare that he would focus entirely on the impeachment effort instead of seeking the White House.
Since then, Steyer, of California, has said he's grown frustrated at the pace at which the Democratic-controlled House is approaching Trump. Roughly half of the Democratic presidential contenders, seeking to appeal to the party's progressive base, have called on House Democrats to start an impeachment inquiry. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted, warning that Democrats need to collect the facts and that a rush to impeachment could ultimately help Trump politically.
Despite becoming a national voice on the impeachment issue, Steyer made no mention of it in his campaign announcement. Instead, he said his campaign will focus on reducing the influence of corporations in politics. He also plans to target climate change, which is the focus of the Steyer-backed advocacy group NextGen America.
"The other Democratic candidates for President have many great ideas that will absolutely move our country forward, but we won't be able to get any of those done until we end the hostile corporate takeover of our democracy," Steyer said in a statement.
Steyer confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that he would spend at least $100 million on his campaign, a figure that was first reported by The New York Times.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who are competing for the support of liberal voters in the Democratic presidential primary, decried the influence of billionaires in the 2020 race.
Warren, who didn't mention Steyer by name, tweeted after his announcement: "The Democratic primary should not be decided by billionaires, whether they're funding Super PACs or funding themselves. The strongest Democratic nominee in the general will have a coalition that's powered by a grassroots movement."
Sanders said that while he may "like Tom personally," he is "a bit tired of seeing billionaires trying to buy political power."
Asked about Warren's and Sanders' criticism of his plan to invest so heavily in his own campaign, Steyer said the common goal among all candidates is to present a vision that connects with voters.
"That's what Americans are waiting for, that's what's missing, and that's something that every single candidate, including Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders, have to address," he said. "And so, if I can't do that, all the money in the world isn't going to help me."
As he seeks the presidency, Steyer is resigning his leadership positions in both NextGen America and Need to Impeach. He says he has committed more than $50 million through 2020 to the two organizations.
Steyer joins the race three weeks before the next presidential debates , and he could struggle to get a spot on the stage. He told the AP that he does not expect to qualify for the second Democratic presidential debates, which will be held July 30-31 in Detroit.
"We're serious about making the debates in September and October, but I think we're too late to make the July one," he said.
There are 20 spots at the debate for a field that includes two dozen candidates . If more than 20 people qualify, the Democratic National Committee will hold a tiebreaker to determine who gets on stage.
Steyer also could potentially face challenges hiring staff. Several of his former NextGen America staffers have joined Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's presidential campaign. A former Steyer spokeswoman, Aleigha Cavalier, recently joined Beto O'Rourke's 2020 campaign.
The sprawling Democratic field is in flux as Steyer becomes the newest contender. Some lower-tier candidates are facing increasingly dire prospects if they don't secure spots on the debate stage this fall.
California Rep. Eric Swalwell exited the race on Monday , and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign has undergone a shake-up after his debate performance last month, with some staffers encouraging him to consider a Senate campaign instead.
This is not the first time Steyer has considered running for office. He eyed bids for governor of California in 2018 and the Senate in 2016. His net worth, according to Forbes, is estimated at $1.6 billion.
Democratic presidential hopeful
Inslee opposes Midwest pipeline plan
FILE - In this July 5, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks in Houston. Inslee says he opposes a plan to build an oil pipeline tunnel beneath the channel that links Lakes Huron and Michigan.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Democratic
presidential hopeful Jay Inslee waded into a Great Lakes
regional controversy on Wednesday, calling for the defeat of a
plan to construct a disputed oil pipeline tunnel beneath a
channel that connects two of the lakes.
In a statement released to The Associated Press, the Washington state governor described Enbridge Inc.'s Line 5 pipeline and the proposed replacement tunnel in Michigan's Straits of Mackinac as "a clear and present threat to the health of the Great Lakes and to our climate."
"They threaten the clean drinking water that millions depend upon," Inslee said. "And they would lock in decades of climate pollution that we can't afford. ... This dangerous pipeline must be decommissioned, the proposed oil tunnel must not be built and clean alternatives must be explored immediately."
Inslee has made addressing climate change the centerpiece of his campaign, which has struggled to gain traction in the crowded Democratic field. He sought to set himself apart by taking a stand on a high-priority issue for environmentalists in the Great Lakes region — particularly Michigan — ahead of debates scheduled for July 30-31 in Detroit.
Line 5 runs for 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, and carries crude oil and natural gas liquids used to make propane. A more than 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) segment is divided into dual pipes that extend across the bed of the straits linking lakes Huron and Michigan.
Enbridge says the pipeline is in sound condition, but it reached a deal last year with Michigan's then-Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to decommission the underwater pipes and replace them with a new one that would be housed in a tunnel built in bedrock beneath the straits.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who replaced Snyder in January, tried to negotiate a faster timetable for the project, but talks broke down. State Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, filed a lawsuit last month calling for the shutdown of the 66-year-old underwater pipes.
Inslee told the AP that he thinks the pipeline should be "a major topic" in this month's debate and he called on his fellow presidential candidates to oppose the Enbridge plan.
Environmental groups praised him for attempting to draw national attention to the issue.
"Climate change is one of the greatest issues — if not the greatest issue — facing our nation and it needs to be talked about in more than sound bites, and Line 5 is an important part of that discussion," said Kate Madigan, director of the Michigan Climate Action Network.
Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the company, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, is committed to moving ahead with the $500 million tunnel project, which Enbridge says would reduce the risk of a leak in the Straits of Mackinac to "virtually zero" and be completed by 2024.
"The tunnel solution is the best long-term opportunity to secure the energy needs of the state while making an already safe pipeline even safer," Duffy said.