Politics & Government

Exclusive Steyer interview: ‘There’s no value that I share with Donald Trump’

Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Steyer was in Rock Hill on Tuesday talking with voters at Clinton College, a historically black college. Afterward, The Herald got an exclusive interview with the California billionaire and activist.

Here are answers to questions The Herald asked:

Why did you choose Clinton College?

Well, we wanted to be at an HBCU. And we were trying to have a place where representatives from the African-American community in North and South Carolina could come. It was a perfect place.

What pushed you across the line from activist to candidate?

I was terrified the Democratic Party and the candidates weren’t going to talk about the actual issues in America; that they were going to talk about policies that we have no ability to get. I think the question of this election is not, what do we want? How the heck are we going to get it?

And that’s what I wanted to talk about, is breaking this corporate stranglehold.

The second thing is, I am terrified that we’re not going to deal aggressively with climate change. And if we don’t, I believe that we’re going to put ourselves in a terrible position. So, I’ve talked about having a climate emergency declared on day one.

I believe that’s the only appropriate thing to do and if you’re not willing to do that, then you’re not really dealing with the facts. You’re just making political points and that’s not good enough.

What sets you apart in this field of 20 Democratic candidates?

I am an outsider in politics, who for 10 years, I’ve done it full time. But I’ve been, as an outsider, taking on corporate power and winning for 10 years, so if you think the problem is a broken government, I’ve actually been dealing with that personally.

If that’s the problem, do you want the outsider from the grassroots? Or do you want someone from inside the beltway? Normally people don’t reform their own systems. My argument is, I’ve been doing it around the country. I can do it in Washington, D.C.

How do you respond to voters who say, ‘In many ways you’re like Trump. You’re both wealthy. You both have backgrounds in corporate America. You both have limited governing experience.’?

Look, I think, our differences start with our values. I think there’s no value that I share with Donald Trump. But I think more than that, I’ve spent 10 years building coalitions with American citizens to take on corporate power successfully. I think I’m a progressive who’s traveled this country full time for seven years, talking to Americans the way I did tonight. That is completely different.

Also, he’s a failed businessman. He’s a fake businessman. Actually, I am a successful businessman.

It’s completely different. One of the reasons I think I should be the candidate is in order to win, we’re going to have to take Trump on and show him for the fake he was as a businessman and the fake he is as a president; that his supposed economic successes are actually huge failures, that he’s a fraud and that we have to take him down, and I’m the person who has by far the most experience in business and international business and economics in terms of all the candidates.

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Cailyn Derickson is a city government and politics reporter for The Herald, covering York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Cailyn graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has previously worked at The Pilot and The News and Observer.