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Tom Steyer calls on Biden to pick Black woman as running mate

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Former presidential candidate Tom Steyer, who is now campaigning and fundraising for Joe Biden, is calling on the presumptive Democratic nominee to pick a Black woman to be his running mate.

“I’d like it to be an African-American woman because I think it’s a statement about where we are, and I know that there’s some fantastic candidates,” Steyer said in an interview with CBS News, though he added that he trusts Biden’s choice no matter who ends up on the ticket. 

Biden has said he will pick a female vice president, and several black women are being considered, including California Senator Kamala Harris and Los Angeles-area Congresswoman Karen Bass, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

Steyer, whose support among African-American voters in South Carolina propelled him to a third-place finish in that state’s Democratic primary in February, has mentioned both Harris and Bass as potential V.P. picks, calling them “outstanding candidates” for the job. He noted that Harris is “well known” with “broad support” and added that Bass, who may not have the same kind of national name recognition as Harris, is “an outstanding person.”

In April, soon after dropping out of the race, Steyer pledged to use his resources to support Biden and quickly endorsed him. Steyer, who founded NextGen America, a non-profit advocacy group that mobilizes young activists around issues of climate change and environmental justice, has been focusing on turning out the youth vote this fall.

“This election is about turnout — and not how you vote, but whether you vote — and the biggest question is young people,” Steyer said.

Since June, Steyer has held three fundraisers for Biden, raising over $12 million, and is set to hold a fourth fundraiser on Thursday. In recent weeks, he’s also hit the virtual campaign trail, holding climate-focused events with voters in Nevada and Colorado. 

Earlier this month, the Biden team started a “Climate Engagement Advisory Council” to try to attract voters who care about climate change and tapped Steyer to be a co-chair of the council. 

“That is really kind of a formalization of something that I’ve been doing really since I stopped running,” Steyer said of the council. He said his work has involved reaching out to different communities around environmental justice so they can hear about Biden’s priorities. 

The Democratic debate stage where the two clashed on climate change in November seems remote now.

“I am the only one on this stage who will say that climate is the number one priority for me,” Steyer said then. “Vice President Biden won’t say it,” he added. 

Biden agreed that climate is “the number one issue” and added that he didn’t need “a lecture” from Steyer on the matter. He went on to say that while he was passing bills on climate change, Steyer was “producing coal mines,” referring to Steyer’s investments in the coal industry early in his career. 

Steyer has since said his investments in fossil-fuels were a mistake and promised to spend his resources fighting for environmental justice. 

Now, Steyer believes Biden’s climate change plan, which was released last week and calls for $2 trillion in spending over four years, reflects a “very progressive and thoughtful and people-driven approach.”

“If you want to talk about climate, start with environmental justice, start in the brown and black communities where we’ve always concentrated our pollution,” Steyer said. He added that Biden’s plan combines job security with environmental and racial justice, creating a suite of issues that represent his number one priority. 

Steyer predicted turnout in the November presidential election would be “by far the biggest in American history” and urged young voters to make a statement. 

“Young people have grown up with this awareness that their future can be dominated by not attending to a scientific reality,” Steyer said, referring to the political divide among some Americans over the scientific facts surrounding the coronavirus. 

“We need every vote, particularly for young people,” Steyer said. “You want to take over this country? You want this world to be safe? You want this world to be one you want to live in? You’ve got to show up and vote,” he added.

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