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Tom Steyer MBA ’83, former Stanford trustee, drops long-shot 2020 bid

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In his best showing yet in a Democratic contest, Tom Steyer MBA ’83 clinched a third-place finish in the South Carolina primary on Saturday. But the result came as a disappointment given the former Stanford trustee’s intense focus on the state, underscoring his struggle to gain electoral traction. He announced Saturday night that he would end his long-shot White House bid. 

Steyer racked up about 11% of votes, leagues behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s 48% and more than a little short of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 20%, despite pouring millions of dollars into the state and making frequent visits. His South Carolina showing follows routs in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. 

“I said if I didn’t see a path to winning that I’d suspend my campaign,” Steyer said on Saturday. “And honestly, I can’t see a path where I can win the presidency.”

An outspoken critic of President Trump, Steyer often sounded a message of Democratic unity during the race. Carving out a path not entirely in line with the party’s progressive or moderate wing, he expressed support for comprehensive climate change action, reparations for slavery and a wealth tax, but not “Medicare for All.”

The billionaire former hedge-fund executive has called out corporations’ “undue influence” on the nations’ economy, and called for a $15 minimum wage and the repeal of Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that enshrines corporate spending on elections. 

But Steyer’s own openhanded spending drew allegations that he was attempting to wield undue influence. South Carolina was a focus of his financial resources, with The New York Times reporting that the candidate spent millions on advertising and in payments to businesses and news organizations owned by African Americans, a crucial voting bloc in the state. 

Announcing his exit from the race, Steyer pledged to maintain efforts to address economic injustice and protect the environment, according to The Times.

“We live in a country that is deeply unjust economically, where rich people have been profiting at the expense of everybody else,” Steyer said. “And I didn’t get in this race and start talking about things to get votes. I was in this race to talk about things that I cared the most about.”

Fellow Stanford grad Sen. Cory Booker ’91, M.A. ’92 (D-N.J.) tweeted in support of Steyer shortly after the latter’s announcement.

With Booker and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro ’96 also having ended their campaigns, Steyer’s exit brings a close to Stanford graduates’ 2020 White House aspirations. 

Contact Charlie Curnin at ccurnin ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Charlie Curnin '22 is the editor-in-chief of The Stanford Daily. Contact him at eic 'at' stanforddaily.com.