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Head Of NextGen America Targets Younger People To Vote Democratic

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer has vowed to put up more than $5 million to help elect Democrats in Florida. Steyer founded the progressive group NextGen America

Steyer's group is organizing voter registration efforts in many parts of Florida. On Friday, he met with students at the University of Tampa before hosting the town hall in St. Petersburg.

Steyer said what he hears at these events are people are fed up with politics as usual.

"What I hear is a bunch of people who are worried we are losing our democracy, are worried that this country's politics have gone off the rails - which I agree with them they have," he said. "And overwhelmingly believe the corporations have bought the democracy."

Credit Olivia Bercow
Tom Steyer, left, in the WUSF studios with Steve Newborn

His rationale for focusing on Florida is not just that it's the nation's third-most populous state, but it's the largest swing state in the nation.

And he's focusing on helping Andrew Gillum as he tries to become the first Democrat to win the governorship since Lawton Chiles in the 1990s.

"He's a fresh face that brings a lot of energy to the Democratic Party," Steyer said. "Come election time, the biggest party in the United States is the 'I don't care to vote' party. And I think Andrew Gillum is one of the people who is speaking to people and energizing them and reminding them that government can be a solution, that we have a shared purpose, and that when they come together and vote, they can change the course of their state."

NextGen America is targeting younger people, who vote at half the rate as other citizens. He sees that as an opportunity. The group is organizing at 45 campuses, as well as four historically black colleges and universities. He says the turnout at those precincts was twice to 10 times what it was in 2014.

"So our hope to have a more vibrant, representative and broad democracy in Florida and around the country turned out to be true on primary day 2018 and we hope will turn out to be true on election day," he said. "

In 2013, Steyer founded NextGen Climate, an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee, which later became NextGen America.  Steyer was estimated to have spent almost $74 million on the 2014 elections, including a failed attempt to get Charlie Crist elected as governor of Florida.



Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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