Sam Altman Is Not Running for Governor of California

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.—Sam Altman, the president of the popular Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator, has been rumored to be running for governor of California.

Blame Willie Brown, the long-serving California State Assemblyman and former mayor of San Francisco. Brown wrote in a May 2017 column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Say hello to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s worst nightmare. His name is Sam Altman. He is a 32-year-old tech investor and app innovator who believes that if used right, technology can help bring an end to income inequality and a host of other social and economic problems. And he’s looking at running for governor in 2018, a race that Newsom is already in. I met up with Altman the other day. He was dressed in sneakers and jeans and was looking for advice. I told him California has a history of millionaires running for public office on their own dime. Most wind up paying consultants a whole lot of money and losing. Altman responded that he isn’t planning on running a traditional campaign and that if he gets in, he’d reach voters through digital intelligence — which, as far as I can tell, involves using analytics to market your message more precisely to your customers.

Altman, appearing onstage at the Wall Street Journal’s D.Live conference here in the southern part of the state, rejected Brown’s assertion in an opening exchange with the paper’s Rolfe Winkler.

“Are you running for Gov. of California next year?” Winkler asked.

“No,” Altman replied.

“Are you considering running for Gov. of California next year?” Winkler asked.

“No,” Altman replied.

(After which venture capitalist Bill Maris, part of the session, interjected: “Wait, what about me?” His eventual answer: No.)

Altman did, however, concede that he thinks a candidate from the technology industry could run an unorthodox campaign that would be good for the state. But he said he’s too busy working out the kinks of today’s cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence that won’t ruin the world.

Come to think of it, perhaps that’s the solution, Sam: An A.I. gubernatorial candidate. Now that’s a progressive campaign Californians can get behind.

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