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Steyer Pumping $7 Million Into Florida, California for 2018 Democrats

Steyer’s NextGen America staff and volunteers targeting millennials

Tom Steyer (NextGen Climate/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.5)
Tom Steyer (NextGen Climate/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.5)

Former hedge fund executive Tom Steyer is committing $7 million to turn out young voters and get Democrats elected in Florida and California in 2018, he announced Wednesday.

The billionaire’s millennial voter engagement group, NextGen America, has launched a 10-state plan backed by a pledged $30 million from Steyer. The Democratic donor sees energizing millennials politically and registering them to vote as keys to securing majorities in the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms. 

“This is a fight for the soul of America,” he told the Miami Herald Wednesday. “Really.”

Steyer’s NextGen America group already has dozens of paid staffers and thousands of volunteers in California and Florida fanning out across college campuses talking to students about the 2018 elections.

In Florida, the staffers and volunteers will focus on re-electing Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Stephanie Murphy and flipping three South Florida House seats.

In California, NextGen has its crosshairs fixed on seven vulnerable GOP-held House seats.

“People tend to think it’s too time-consuming, it’s too expensive, so they don’t do it,” Steyer said of engaging potential millennial voters in an interview Monday with the Tampa Bay Times. “From our standpoint, this is a critical part of having the kind of fair democracy that we want and we think the country would be much better off.

“It’s not that they are uninformed, it’s not that they are lazy. It’s that they don’t necessarily believe the system serves them.”

Political strategists have determined the best way to reach millennials — who polls suggest see themselves as too independent to identify with a particular party — is to stress similarities in candidates’ stances on the issues.

“Millennials have an incredible authenticity radar,” Florida’s Murphy said. “If you’re not really authentic about issues … millennials pick up on that.”

NextGen was a crucial player turning out millennials at a historic rate in the 2017 Virginia state elections that saw huge Democratic gains.

The group flooded the state with more than 1,100 volunteers to turn out millennial votes for the party. The first thing volunteers did when they met potential voters on university campuses was to survey them on the issues most vital to their political identity, Ben Wessel, NextGen’s national youth vote director, said in December.

That’s the model Steyer’s staff hopes to emulate in California, Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, and other states.

“Because we’re leading with the issues and young people identify really strongly with progressive issues, they’re excited about doing work with us,” Wessel said. “As opposed to, ‘Hey, we’re the Democratic Party, we’re the Republican Party.’ There’s a lot of mistrust in existing institutions.”

Steyer announced Thursday a multi-state town hall tour promoting his Need to Impeach campaign will begin next week with events in Ohio.

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