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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 22, 2014 at 5:25 PM

California billionaire Tom Steyer drops $1 million on WA elections

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer

California billionaire Tom Steyer

California billionaire Tom Steyer — a climate activist and political ally of Gov. Jay Inslee — has entered Washington state’s 2014 elections in a big way, sending $1 million here in an expected effort to help Democrats take control of the state Senate.

Steyer donated $1 million last week to NextGen Climate Action’s Washington state political branch, according to a Public Disclosure Commission filing Monday. Two days later, NextGen sent $50,000 to the Kennedy Fund, a political committee that backs Democrats in state Senate races.

Democrats’ top priority here is retaking control of the state Senate from the Majority Coalition Caucus, a GOP-dominated caucus that has controlled the chamber for the past two years. A Steyer representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Republicans immediately sounded the alarm.

“Tom Steyer is trying to buy control of the State Senate to pass a radical agenda that benefits his financial and political interests but will raise costs and increase taxes for middle-class families,” said Brent Ludeman, executive director of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement.

Steyer’s involvement here has been anticipated for months. He has pledged $100 million nationally to elect candidates who share his views on global warming — and to defeat politicians who deny it is occurring. Steyer met for a private lunch with Inslee at the governor’s mansion in May.

We wrote Sunday about one of the legislative races that could see a share of the Steyer money — the effort by Democrats to unseat state Sen. Doug Ericksen in Whatcom County’s 42nd Legislative District.

Ericksen has emerged as a chief opponent of Inslee’s climate-change agenda, and he is being challenged by Democrat Seth Fleetwood, a former Bellingham City Council and Whatcom County Council member.

But expect to see the Steyer cash to also flow to other competitive races, including the Eastside’s 45th Legislative District, where Republican state Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond is being challenged by Democrat Matt Isenhower.

Comments | More in 2014 elections, Politics Northwest, State legislative races | Topics: 2014 Legislative races, climate change, Jay Inslee

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