Political activist Tom Steyer speaks during a "Need to Impeach" town hall event at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, March 16, 2018, in Cincinnati.

Major Dem donor’s Atlanta visit prompts an obvious question: Will he get involved in Ga. races?

That’s a major question as California billionaire Tom Steyer visits Atlanta next week for a town hall event aimed at building public support for impeaching President Trump. The former hedge fund manager spent upwards of $90 million supporting Democratic candidates in 2016, making him the party’s largest donor, and he’s already pledged to spend tens of millions more ahead of the November midterms. 

Neither Steyer nor his main advocacy group NextGen America have spent much money in Georgia in recent years, but the liberal activist said in an interview earlier this week that he plans to hang around the state for a few days next week and get a feel for the political scene. 

“For me, this is going to be incredibly educational and fun,” he said. “I’ve obviously talked with people running for office in Georgia, talked a lot about Georgia. I think that Georgia is increasingly going to be a very competitive state.”

Steyer has recently reached into his wallet to aid Democratic gubernatorial candidates in several other states. One question high on the minds of local politicos is whether he plans to similarly invest in the Georgia’s own closely-watched contest, particularly the May 22 primary between Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams, who are testing out two very different political strategies. 

Steyer hinted he would likely stay out of the primary battle, but he also wouldn’t rule out getting involved.

“We have tried to avoid D-on-D races,” he said. “We have broken that intention very, very, very rarely because we’re basically a grassroots organization trying to get as broad participation as possible.”

“We have obviously heard a lot, talked a lot and thought a lot about this Democratic primary in Georgia,” he added. “We haven’t decided that this is one that would break our rule, although we understand that it’s a very important primary.” 

There is at least some fear on the GOP side. The political arm of the Republican Governors Association blasted out a statement last week declaring Steyer’s upcoming Atlanta visit as a “clear sign that he plans on making Georgia’s gubernatorial race a key focus for 2018.”

“With Steyer already setting his sights on Georgia as a key state for his Super PAC this year, indicating that he plans to funnel money toward Democrats willing to back his radical policies, he should organize a debate between Abrams and Evans and explain to Georgia voters why they should support his far-left agenda,” the group said. 

Steyer does have a fundraising program with environmental groups, GiveGreen, that allows donors to give to candidates in Georgia and other states with “strong stances on clean energy and climate issues,” money the group will then match.

As we mentioned earlier this week, appearing publicly with Steyer has its benefits and risks for Evans and Abrams. They would get to rub shoulders not only with their party’s biggest donor, but some of the most politically-involved members of their base. But the image of one or both of them standing on a stage next to Steyer is all but certain to be drawn into campaign ads -- Steyer has long been one of the right’s favorite boogeymen. 

Both Abrams and Evans said they plan to skip his town hall. 

Insider’s note: This story was ripped and expanded from today’s morning jolt. Read our daily political newsletter here

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that...