He's Running for President, and He's Making a Big Gamble

Jay Inslee trying to win on a climate-change platform
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2019 9:24 AM CST

The 2020 presidential race just got its first governor as a candidate, with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's Friday announcement that he would seek the Democratic nomination. It's not the only first tied to Inslee, who entered the race by saying he wants to be the "first climate president," as Rolling Stone puts it. In a video from his campaign, Inslee says "the most urgent challenge of our time .... isn't just a chart or graph anymore. ... We have an opportunity to transform our economy, run on 100% clean energy that will bring millions of good paying jobs to every community across America, and create a more just future for everyone." How the 13th Democrat to announce his candidacy is being discussed:

  • NBC News reports Inslee has racked up wins and losses on the climate front as governor. He succeeded in getting the biggest green transportation infrastructure package in the state's history passed, but his bid to enact a statewide climate tax failed last year.
  • The Pacific Northwest Inlander is less glowing. In a January piece outlining 7 things standing in Inslee's way of securing the Democratic nomination, it writes, "Inslee's asking you to believe that he'll be able to sell climate change legislation to America, when he can't even do so in liberal, forest-fire-choked Washington." It cites a failed cap-and-trade bill and unsuccessful executive order mandating carbon cuts. "Washington voters have crushed carbon tax initiative proposals not once, but twice."

  • FiveThirtyEight greeted the news with a piece titled, "How Jay Inslee Could Win The 2020 Democratic Nomination." The article explores the question of whether the climate can really be a "winning issue" and flags Inslee's "ability to point to tangible accomplishments rather than just rhetoric"—he has enacted progressive policies like a generous family leave policy and a minimum wage that will hit $13.50 in January—as something that could set him apart.
  • Speaking of tangible, the Atlantic interviews Inslee and explains the things that prodded him to run: viewing firsthand California's wildfire destruction and reading through "searing" recent climate reports. As for what he'd propose to address global warming: government incentives and funding, curtailing emissions and power plants, and job-growth programs. The Atlantic writes he sees it as "the way to make a real dent in income inequality and have the Democratic Party bring tangible solutions to communities in rural America that have been left behind."
  • While acknowledging Inslee is still not a known name after decades in politics, the New Yorker points out one thing potentially in his favor: "credible public-opinion polls" indicates Democratic voters in key early-primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa put climate change and health care ahead of all other issues.
  • Inslee isn't out to be a one-note candidate, though, per Vox. "Instead, Inslee is treating climate change like an umbrella issue under which other issues like the economy, health care, and national security also fit."
  • The Seattle PI shared its take on Inslee in advance of the announcement. He's "a fine one-on-one politician, an avuncular, likable schmoozer's schmoozer, a guy with whom you could sit down and have a beer. In personality, Inslee resembled nobody so much as George W. Bush. ... When not engaged, Inslee can display the attention span of a hummingbird. The governor knows his stuff on creating a carbon-free economy, however, and makes a compelling case that clean energy can fulfill a dual mission, curbing global warming and fueling 21st Century jobs."
  • The Washington Post points out Inslee's political resume is longer than any other 2020 candidate. It details his background here.
  • As for that resume, it "should make progressive voters swoon," reports Rolling Stone. "As a congressman, he voted against the Iraq War, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the bank bailout after the 2008 financial crash. As governor, he’s signed into law the first state net-neutrality bill, declared a moratorium on the death penalty, proposed a public option for health care and unveiled a plan to pardon thousands of low-level drug offenders." But his low name recognition isn't doing him any favors: He has 27,000 Twitter followers, to Kamala Harris' 2.4 million.
  • That's not the only paltry number linked to him: He scored less than 1% on a Monmouth University poll conducted in late January asking which potential candidate Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters would support.
  • Politico's story on his candidacy kicks off with an uphill-battle opening line: "No one has ever won a major statewide race, let alone a presidential nomination, with a single-issue, climate-focused candidacy."
(Read more Jay Inslee stories.)

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