Four weeks out from Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, Democrats may soon be launching a few unorthodox, mega-rich candidates of their own.
In three major states with a governor’s mansion up for grabs in 2018, a big-name, politically active billionaire or multimillionaire is taking steps toward a run — donors looking to take matters into their own hands after 2016’s gutting losses.
In Florida, it’s John Morgan, a wealthy attorney who has long been one of the Democratic Party’s biggest swing-state fundraisers. In Illinois, it’s J.B. Pritzker, the businessman and philanthropist with a history of pumping cash and Chicago political support toward Hillary Clinton. And in California, it’s Tom Steyer, the hedge fund manager-turned climate activist who used the 2014 and 2016 election cycles to become one of the left’s single biggest donors, to the tune of over $140 million. And more may be on the way.
It’s an unexpected development that stands to inject new life into the Democratic Party — but it also exposes the lack of clear pipeline for young, rising Democrats after a series of losses, at a time when they are down to just 18 governors across the country, from 29 just eight years ago.
“There seems to be a feeling that we need to look beyond the normal folks we always look to, the normal types,” said Elisabeth Pearson, the Democratic Governors Association’s executive director, who said the party was discussing a “need to look beyond the type of people who have been elected before, and look at who else might be out there.”
California is a Democratic stronghold. Incumbent governor Jerry Brown will be retiring at the end of his current term, which means the Democratic primary is where the competition will really be in this race. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are running for the job as well, so how Steyer might fit into this race is not known at the present time.
Illinois and Florida are both under Republican control, but will be in different circumstances in 2018. Illinois incumbent Bruce Rauner will be running for re-election, while Florida incumbent Rick Scott is term-limited and Republicans will be defending an open seat.
UPDATE: Here is a post-election tweet from John Morgan linking to a Medium post outlining his vision for what the next governor of Florida should do.