By: Willa Frej
The environmental super PAC NextGen Climate Action announced plans on Monday to engage young voters at 203 college campuses prior to November’s elections.
Tom Steyer, the billionaire investor behind NextGen, told reporters that the group will spend about $25 million to register young voters, educate them about presidential and senatorial candidates’ stances on climate and energy issues and motivate them to show up on election day.
NextGen will be holding events in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Illinois and Colorado — seven battleground states where “millennial voters would make a difference,” said Heather Hargreaves, NextGen’s vice president. The group has already been active for the past six months in Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio, at schools like Ohio State University and Drake University, she said.
Steyer spent more than $74 million on the 2014 midterm elections, but only three out of the seven candidates backed by NextGen won.
He said he expects in-person and online organizing to play the most powerful roles in the 2016 campaign, a departure from NextGen’s previous reliance on television ads. The group is hiring hundreds of organizers and has already run ads on SnapChat and at concerts and breweries, and plans to do more of that in the months leading up to the election, Hargreaves said.
NextGen plans to unveil other electoral efforts for 2016, Steyer said, but did not disclose further details. The group launched a media campaign called “Hot Seat” last year, asking candidates skeptical about climate change to defend their positions.
Though Steyer said that the 2016 campaign has presented the “starkest contrast between presidential candidates that’s been offered for many decades,” he declined to endorse any specific candidate at this point.
“What we’ve said from the beginning of primary season is we wanted to challenge the candidates [in both parties] to give their solution to [getting to] 50 percent clean energy by 2030,” he said.
College-age voters will play an important role in deciding what happens in November, Steyer said. In places like New Hampshire, more than one-quarter of college students have pledged to vote on clean energy as a result of the organization’s efforts in the state. “When young people engage in the political conversation, incredible things can happen,” he said.
“The good news is that young voters are already breaking turnout records, but we need to make sure we continue the momentum through November,” Hargreaves added.