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Jay Inslee Is Eyeing the 2020 Race as ‘the Climate Candidate’

The Washington state governor adds his name to a crowded list of Democratic hopefuls

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters about his 2019-2021 budget proposal, at the Capitol in Olympia, WashInslee Budget, Olympia, USA - 13 Dec 2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters about his 2019-2021 budget proposal at the Capitol in Olympia, WA.

Ted S Warren/AP/REX/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington state, has moved closer to entering the 2020 presidential race. And he’s betting on the idea that Americans care enough about the existential threat of our time — climate change — to elect a president with a laser-like, almost singular focus on that issue.

The news does not come as much of a surprise. Last month, Inslee first spoke to Rolling Stone about the need for a Democratic candidate in 2020 who would put climate change at the forefront of his or her campaign — a role for which he refused to rule himself out. “I do think that it is absolutely imperative that the Democratic Party put forth a candidate who will make climate change a principal, front-burner issue, rather than some peripheral back burner,” he said. “I believe it’s a potentially winning issue to run on, and we need a candidate who will do that.”

Now, The Atlantic reports that the 67-year-old Inslee is indeed likely to run, and that he’s taking all the steps necessary to announce his candidacy soon. He’s recruiting donors using a political action committee he started last fall, forming an official exploratory committee and getting ready to mobilize a network of some 200,000 climate-centric activists nationwide. “We’re laying the groundwork that would make this a feasible thing in the relatively short term,” he said.

In his conversations with the Atlantic, Inslee sounds like a candidate who can’t wait to get a chance to clash with President Trump, especially on the issue of climate change:

“I’m really happy to be in a confrontation with this person. I’m comfortable in that conversation,” Inslee said. “You have to do two things in beating Donald Trump: One, you have to show dignity and that you can help America to become united again, and you can help America rise to the better angels rather than our lower behavior—[while] at the same time, demonstrating a strength of character and a core conviction that you’re not going to be pushed around or bullied, and you’ve had it with his lower human behavior.”

Dating back to the mid-2000s and the release of his book, Apollo’s Fire, Inslee has talked about the fight against climate change by comparing it to the NASA space race and other historic feats of American engineering and imagination. As he told Rolling Stone, he believes averting a climate catastrophe is as much a matter of character than anything else. “This is not about talking about the level of acidity,” he said. “It’s about talking about the level of our ambition, and the level of our commitment to our kids, and the level of our sense of optimism. We have to have a vision of the future rather than just a concern about the future. We’ve got to have a positive statement of a way forward rather than just a warning sign.”

The idea of Green New Deal is on a fast rise to prominence within the Democratic Party right now. A new class of progressive members in Congress are up in arms that a revived climate-change select committee isn’t tough enough to force real action. And so for Inslee, his climate-focused campaign, the notion of a moon-shot-style mass mobilization to tackle the gravest threat to this planet and to future generations, could be arriving at just the right time.

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