Billionaire Tom Steyer was given little time in the spotlight of the national TV debate stage on Tuesday night as he sought to stand out among a dozen Democratic candidates making their cases to be the country’s next president.
Throughout the three-hour marathon, candidates were quizzed — and fought each other — on policy proposals aimed at improving health care, reducing income inequality, expanding access to abortion and commanding the nation’s armed forces. But there’s one key issue Steyer says the CNN and New York Times moderators “failed” to address: climate change.
“Did you not notice that they never asked about climate?” Steyer said during a phone interview with the Quad-City Times on Wednesday afternoon, adding: “I felt like I was having a flashback to 2016. Absolute failure by the moderators, terrible mistake.”
Steyer, a political outsider from San Francisco who amassed a personal fortune estimated by Forbes at $1.6 billion, has been putting messages about climate change on the airwaves for years. He has also led public awareness and advocacy efforts through heavy spending calling for President Donald Trump to be impeached and encouraging younger Americans to vote.
Over the past three election cycles, he has donated more than $257 million to outside spending groups supporting Democratic causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Steyer called the “climate crisis” issue “hugely, hugely, hugely important” and one that he is the “most progressive” candidate on. His plan calls for an estimated $2 trillion dedicated from federal sources and focuses on investments in “climate-smart” infrastructure, creating millions of jobs and transferring to 100% clean energy by 2045.
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Climate is one of two issues, along with addressing the “corporate stranglehold” on American government, Steyer said, that must be addressed to pave a way for everything else Americans want, including better health care and creating a more just economy for the working and lower-income classes.
It was the fourth debate and the first time Steyer has appeared on stage since officially announcing his candidacy in July. He did not meet standards set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for earlier debates held in late July and mid-September.
All things considered, Steyer says he, like every candidate, wanted more time to speak to the nation. But he thinks the debate gave him the opportunity to get his message out and introduce himself to many people who still do not know him well or his stance on national issues.
“I had a fairly simple mission to accomplish and I think I did do that,” Steyer said.