SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer reported Friday that he has made a $500,000 contribution to help an incumbent Democratic state senator who backed a 2015 proposal to cut petroleum use by half within 15 years in the state.
Steyer disclosed the contribution to aid Sen. Jim Beall in his south San Francisco Bay Area primary race against Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a San Jose Democrat who has received support from oil companies.
Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, has promised to spend more in this election cycle than the $74 million he gave to campaigns across the country in 2014, when he was the nation’s single largest political donor.
Beall is an ally of Democratic leaders in the Legislature.
Two coalitions of oil companies spent nearly $340,000 to support Campos earlier this month.
“If we want our leaders to stand up to powerful interests and do right by our families, we can’t allow Big Oil to bully them into silence,” Steyer said in an emailed statement.
Steyer reported the contribution to the NextGen California Committee to Support Jim Beall for State Senate 2016 Friday.
Representatives of the two campaigns did not return calls for comment. Campaigns and independent expenditure committees like NextGen are not allowed to coordinate.
The political committee plans to use some of the money for radio advertisements to begin airing Monday, spokesman Gil Duran said.
The committee is also “monitoring other races where oil is spending big,” Duran said, though they’ve not yet decided which other races to target.
In Southern California, a similar primary challenge is unfolding between incumbent Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, and a Grand Terrace attorney, Democrat Eloise Reyes.
Brown is a member of an influential caucus of moderate Democrats in the Assembly that blocked the gas cuts last year, though she voted for the renewable energy bill after that provision was removed.
Chevron gave $1 million last month to a political committee that has been spending money on research and ads supporting Brown.
Environmental groups unaffiliated with Steyer and other progressive organizations are supporting Reyes’ attempt to unseat Brown.
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