Encircled by a group of about 70 people Thursday night, billionaire investor, political activist and Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer said he can beat President Donald Trump with a vision for a robust green economy.
“You have to take [Trump] down on the economy,” said Steyer at a town hall in Keene State College’s Young Student Center.
If elected, Steyer, 62, said he would create more than 4.5 million green jobs per year, resulting in cheaper energy, faster economic growth and higher wages while also meeting the need for a more sustainable planet to combat climate change.
Steyer founded the hedge fund Farallon Capital in the 1980s but left in 2012 to found and fund nonprofit political organizations, such as NextGen America, a group pushing for environmental and voting-rights reform that is based primarily on college campuses.
As president, Steyer said he’d put particular focus on helping communities, predominantly populated by people of color, that bear the burden of environmental contamination, such as poor air and water quality.
“This is going to be the best, biggest union job program in the history of the United States,” said Steyer, noting he’d raise the minimum wage and fight unchecked corporate power to lessen wealth inequality.
Steyer, who lives in California and has never held elected office, was decidedly light on policy specifics, saying debates in his party, such as those surrounding health care, matter only if the Democrats win.
Democrats “all want the same stuff,” he said, and should focus on beating Trump.
As an outsider, Steyer said he could bring needed reforms to Washington, including term limits for members of Congress and an acute understanding of business.
“If you want change, get new people in charge,” he said.
Most of the dozen people interviewed by a reporter Thursday night said they liked Steyer, but were not set on voting for him in Tuesday’s primary and came to the event mainly to learn more about him and his ideas.
Several said they became interested in Steyer after seeing his many advertisements on television and online.
“This is the first election I’ll vote in so I want to hear all the candidates,” said Keene High School senior Alea Denney, 18, who added she’ll likely vote for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., because she likes her detailed policy proposals. After the town hall, Denney said she was disappointed Steyer didn’t talk more about policy.
Others offered higher praise.
“I like Tom Steyer. I’ve been impressed with him and like his passion and how long he’s been working for his causes. I don’t think he has a path, but I hope he can find one,” said Jim Martens, 70, a retired small-business owner from Sharon.
The latest results from Monday’s Democratic caucuses in Iowa show Steyer earned 0.3 percent of the vote.
Diane Bush, 60, a Richmond resident and teacher in Jaffrey, said she’ll vote for Steyer in Tuesday’s N.H. Primary.
“He’s the number one candidate on climate change,” Bush said. “It’s the first thing he talks about, and it’s the number one thing that will affect the globe. It’s not the first thing other candidates talk about.”