Washington Governor Jay Inslee enters presidential race

The Democrat calls climate change ‘the most urgent challenge of our time.’

 

This article was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee joined the Democratic primary frenzy on Friday, launching a campaign with climate change as its central focus, an issue that conventional political wisdom, pointing to the polling, dismisses as a lower priority for voters than healthcare and stagnating wages. 

The race now has a candidate who says he “will make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority.”

Gov. Inslee in October 2018, during a meeting with British Columbia Premier John Horgan. The two signed an agreement to act jointly to protect the environment and fight climate change, among other objectives.

“We have an opportunity to transform our economy and run on 100 percent clean energy that will bring millions of good-paying jobs to every community across America, create a more just future for everyone,” Inslee said in his campaign video announcement on Friday. Later in Seattle, with his wife, children, and the grandchildren he regularly calls his inspiration in the climate fight, Inslee will hold a press conference at a solar installation company. 

Inslee plans to visit Iowa, Nevada, and California for a Climate Mission Tour, where he will echo the message he first began testing last month in two roundtables with college students in New Hampshire.

In more than two decades in politics, the congressman turned-two-term governor has cultivated a reputation as a serious thinker on how to address climate change. A lifelong environmentalist, Inslee set out an early vision for a Green New Deal-type fight against climate change, before the branding caught on. He co-wrote a book called Apollo’s Fire in 2007 about the transformative power of a clean energy economy. Under Inslee, Washington state has taken a lead with other states to fight the Trump administration’s climate denial, joining the U.S. Climate Alliance of states that remain committed to the 2015 targets set in Paris. 

But Inslee has waged and lost his share of political fights, including the nation’s first state-wide carbon tax ballot initiative centered around environmental justice. Voters rejected the proposal last year, after industry opponents raised more than $30 million against it. The legislature, controlled by Democrats by a razor-thin margin, failed to pass a similar bill last year. This year, the legislature, which picked up additional blue seats last cycle, is considering a new package of transportation and infrastructure investments in an effort to reverse the troubling trend from 2012 to 2015, during which Washington’s carbon emissions climbed 6 percent.

The 67-year-old Washington native is far from the only candidate to consider climate as a top priority, especially as Democrats clamor to get on the Green New Deal bandwagon. But unlike most others, he has a lengthy track record of trying to raise the profile of the fight. Over a decade before the Green New Deal burst onto the scene, Inslee attempted to sound the alarm of a warming planet, comparing the need mobilize resources to fight climate change to the Apollo Mission to the moon. As one of few governors in the race, and the recent chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, Inslee plans on showcasing his record of implementing programs, not just sponsoring messaging bills in the Senate.

“If there are three tiers, he’s in the third right now,” Democratic strategist Mary Ann Marsh says. “A lot of people don’t know him. A lot of people aren’t familiar with him. He’s certainly doing a lot of cable TV to try to get better known.”

Climate activists hope Inslee’s entry helps sharpen the debate that shows Democrats take the problem of runaway warming as serious as politicians claim in stump speeches.

“It’s hard for people to personalize it in the same way people feel their health care bill or rent or job,” Julian Brave NoiseCat, a policy analyst for 350.org, says. “I’m really curious how someone like Governor Inslee will message climate and the Green New Deal. How is he planning to take on this pretty significant communications challenge?”

During an interview with Mother Jones in Washington, DC, where he was attending the Democratic Governor’s Association meetings last weekend, Inslee said he was optimistic that his message will resonate with younger voters, noting the calls he’s made with freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and meetings his staff has had with Sunrise Movement activists in recent weeks.

“I’ve never run on popularity,” Inslee said, pointing to positions he has taken throughout his career in politics, especially in Congress. “I voted against the Iraq War. I voted for the assault weapons ban in a red small agricultural district. I voted for a lot of things that were right that happened not to be popular at the moment.”

Rebecca Leber is a reporter in Mother Jones’ D.C. bureau, where she covers environmental politics and policy. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Deputy Director/COO who will have the overall responsibilities of general program management, staff management, financial & budget management,...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR AND BOOKKEEPER
    Posted: July 19, 2021 Application deadline: August 27 or until position is filled. Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking a fulltime Office Administrator...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Posted: July 15, 2021 Application deadline: August 21, 2021 or until position is filled Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking three full time...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...
  • DISCOUNT SOLAR PANELS
    New w/25 year warranty. Shipped anywhere in the lower 48. Minimum order of 10 units. Call, text or email for current prices. .50-.80/ watt