Tom Steyer-backed group targets millennials to help Democrats in North Carolina

The billionaire donor taking on America's right wing
The billionaire donor taking on America's right wing


    The billionaire donor taking on America's right wing


The billionaire donor taking on America's right wing 07:41

Story highlights

  • Billionaire Tom Steyer spent over $70 million to help Democrats in 2014
  • Steyer's group is looking to boost Clinton in North Carolina with college students

Chappaqua, New York (CNN)NextGen Climate, the super PAC backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, is expanding its battleground state map by investing six-figures in a turnout operation aimed at millennials in North Carolina, the group will announce Thursday.

The move signals confidence among Democrats that North Carolina, given its growing diversity and large number of college-aged voters, could both back Clinton and elect Democrat Deborah Ross over Republican Richard Burr in the state's Senate race.
North Carolina is seen as a must-win for Donald Trump inside the Clinton campaign. Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 after President Barack Obama won it in 2008.
    NextGen's plan is to invest over $500,000 to turnout the 200,000 college-aged voters on 10 campuses in North Carolina with the hope of taking back the United States Senate from Republicans and "electing a pro-climate majority."
    Steyer, through NextGen and direct donations, has put himself among the most prolific Democratic donors and activists. Steyer spent over $70 million in the 2014 midterms and tells CNN he expects to spend more this year.
    "We will end up spending more than that much money this year. I don't now how much," Steyer said. "You have to be willing to do what it takes and it is still August and there is a lot of water to go under the bridge. I am sure we will spend more than 2014."
    One goal that Steyer hopes NextGen organizers will accomplish is convincing people who used to support Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign that they vote counts and that they should get engaged in the 2016 race, even if their top choice suspended his campaign.
    "I think there are some Sanders voters who feel ... like they don't want to vote because if they are not going to get what they want, they would rather it turn out badly," Steyer said, calling that view a "naive belief that four really bad years would bring us to a better political outcome" in the future.

    Efforts aimed at college campuses

    The key to winning the Tar Heel State, Steyer said, is young people.
    "The whole reason we are doing this is we believe that this is an incredibly important group of people and that we can facilitate a field operation, facilitate conversations that will make them aware of how important their voice is," Steyer said.
    NextGen will begin organizing at Appalachian State University, East Carolina University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the coming weeks. Matt Skeens, NextGen's Youth Vote Director, will lead the North Carolina operation.
    To date, NextGen has invested in organizing programs in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Colorado and Nevada.
    Steyer said his organizers aim to show the vast differences between Clinton and Trump on the environment and climate change.
    The billionaire environmentalist said Trump's plans are "superficial and stupid" and that his lack of knowledge about the environment is "astonishing."
    Clinton's plans, by contrast, are "very detailed" and "extremely thoughtful," Steyer said, and it is "important that people understand that difference."