Washington Gov. Inslee Places Climate Change Front and Center in Presidential Bid

March 2, 2019 by Dan McCue
Clear skies and snow greet Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, including college campus visits to both Saint Anselm and Dartmouth. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times/TNS)

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Friday that he will seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and do so by making climate change his central issue.

“I’m running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority,” the 68-year-old governor said in a YouTube video announcing his candidacy.

“We can do this. Join our movement. This is our moment,” he said as he stood on the wharf of a working port terminal with the Seattle skyline behind him.

Inslee is the first presidential candidate to launch a bid for the White House from Washington State in more than 40 years. The late Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson ran in 1976.

He is also the first governor to join a Democratic primary field that has been dominated by senators.

Others said to be considering bids are Montana Governor Steve Bullock, the current chairman of the National Governors Association, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

But Inslee made clear Friday he is staking out a claim to be the climate change candidate in the race.

He is the co-author, with researcher Bracken Hendricks, of the 2007 book, “Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy,” in which he proposed undertaking a program on the scale of the United States’ mission to the moon in the 1960s to address a wide range of climate and environmental concerns.

In his announcement video, Inslee, who served in Congress from 1993 to 1995, and again in 1999 to 2012, revived his “Apollo Fire” message.

“We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last who can do something about it.,” he said. “We went to the moon and created technologies that have changed the world. Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time — defeating climate change.”

“This crisis isn’t just a chart or graph anymore,” he continued. “The impacts are being felt everywhere. We have an opportunity to transform our economy, run on 100 percent clean energy that will bring millions of good paying jobs to every community across America, and create a more just future for everyone.”

Inslee’s statements were greeted warmly by organizations working to address climate change and related issues, including the National Resources Defense Council.

“Candidates who put climate action at the center of their campaigns understand that elections are about the future,” said Denis Dison, spokesperson for the NRDC Action Fund. “They’re paying attention to the science. They’re listening to the American people – seven in ten of whom expect our government to stand up and fight the central environmental challenge of our time. And there’s no question we need a president who understands that the true test of leadership is the kind of world we leave to our children.

“We are excited about the central role climate change is playing so far as the 2020 campaign gets underway,” Dison said.

Inslee enters the race for the Democratic nomination against the six prominent senators who have already entered the race, and his chances of victory may get even slimmer if and when former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke enter the race.

But in visits to early primary states New Hampshire and Nevada earlier this month, Inslee said he believes change is a “unifying issue” that will have broad appeal with the electorate.

“This issue is connected to virtually every other value system and thing we want to do in our communities,” he told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

Inslee plans to visit Iowa, which starts the nominating process with the first caucus, next week. A campaign trip to California, and a second trip to Nevada, are also on his schedule in coming days.

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