Since donating $1.25 million in support of Donald Trump, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has been disrupting politics on a national level. He graced the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and has since had a hand in the president-elect’s transition team. His taste for politics could extend to making a run for office. According to Politico, he’s been polling advisors about running for governor of California in 2018.
While some are skeptical that Thiel would swap his privacy for the campaign trail, a tech exec running for office in the Golden State isn’t unprecedented. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman spent $144 million of her own money in a failed gubernatorial bid in 2010, losing to current California governor Jerry Brown. Before vying for the presidency, Carly Fiorina mounted a 2010 US Senate campaign, losing to incumbent Rep. Barbara Boxer. Both Whitman and Fiorina ran as Republicans.
As a Republican, Thiel would face an uphill battle, despite a net worth of $2.7 billion that would allow him to outspend opponents. Just 30% of voters cast their ballots for Trump during the general election; the state has historically tilted toward Democrats.
He’s also among a growing number of Californians in favor of a CalExit—California seceding from the union to form its own country, a move supported by Uber and Hyperloop co-founder Shervin Pishevar. “I think it would be good for California, good for the rest of the country,” Thiel said in a recent New York Times interview, adding that “it would help Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign” in 2020. California voters were principally responsible for Hillary Clinton’s win of the national popular vote in the recent presidential election.
It’s unclear if Thiel has aligned himself with the “Yes California” movement, which is controversial because it’s led by Louis Marinelli—a New Yorker by birth currently living in Russia. Marinelli has spent considerable time championing the idea in Russia, where the government is supportive of nearly every separatist movement in the states, from Texas to Hawaii.
“Yes California” wants to place an initiative on the 2018 ballot. Should that pass, a special election would be held in 2019. Voters would then have to pass a special referendum separating the Golden State from the rest of the US.
Impossible? Stranger things have happened in American politics.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Angel investor Jason Calacanis is in favor of Calexit. The investor has only said it’s feasible given the UK’s decision to leave the EU.