Howard Schultz, Former Starbucks CEO, Exploring 2020 Run As An Independent – Reports

By Edward Helmore in New York

Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks, is exploring an independent bid for the presidency, according to US media reports.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, CNN and the Washington Post said Schultz’s advisers are looking at the possibility of a presidential bid, but that all options remained on the table.

According to sources cited by CNN, “[Schultz] is thinking deeply about his future and how he can best serve the country”.

The reports have not been independently verified by the Guardian.

Schultz first prompted speculation that he would launch a bid for the White House when he stepped down from his position at Starbucks last year.

In an interview with the New York Times, he spoke of his interest in public service. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country – the growing division at home and our standing in the world,” he said.

While offering fierce criticism of the current president during a CNN interview in June last year, Schultz allowed that “President Trump has given license to the fact that someone who is not a politician could potentially run for the presidency”.

Indicators of where he might position himself on the political spectrum came in the same interview, in which he appeared to criticize Democratic proposals he considers too left-leaning, among them single-payer health care and guaranteed income.

With the potential for the biggest field of Democratic candidates in a generation looking to challenge Donald Trump in 2020, California senator Kamala Harris joined the race on Monday, which was being celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Schultz is one of three older, white, male billionaires contemplating a bid to take on Trump. The others are New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and hedge fund investor and activist Tom Steyer. The trio have an estimated combined wealth: $50bn.

Indications that Schultz is at least seriously considering a bid comes as Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren have announced their intentions to run for the Democratic nomination, in part a signal that with so many potential Democratic candidates for voters to choose from, the need to lock in support early is considered paramount.

If Schultz’s interested solidifies into a challenge, he will be aware that the independent ticket is, at a minimum, an arduous climb; no independent candidate has broken into the double digits in the popular vote at an election since businessman Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign.

Disincentives for an independent bid, which have previously dissuaded Bloomberg from pursuing an independent bid in two previous election cycles, include fears that an independent candidate would draw support away from the Democratic candidate, thus aiding Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.

On Friday, Washington State Democratic party chair Tina Podlodowski issued a statement calling on Schultz to abandon any presidential ambition.

“I have two words for Howard Schultz on a potential run for president as an independent: Just. Don’t,” she said in a statement. “Too much is at stake to make this about the ambitions of any one person.”

Schultz will begin a national book tour to promote a memoir at the end of this month.

The book couples Schultz journey from the outer-reaches of Brooklyn to multi-billionaire coffee-chain titan, while positioning himself and a liberal visionary with the ambition “to reimagine the promise of America”.

He is believed to have discussed his presidential ambitions with a circle of former Starbucks advisers and board members, including former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley (D), former defense secretary Robert Gates and retired Adm Mike Mullen.

This article provided by NewsEdge.