Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made fighting climate change the central theme of his presidential campaign, announced Wednesday night that he is ending his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Inslee said that he was confident that Democrats would select a nominee who would champion climate change issues but that it had become clear that he wouldn't be the person selected. Inslee said he was not endorsing anyone but would support whoever is the nominee.
"I believe we're going to have a candidate to fight this battle," he said on MSNBC. "I'm inspired by the people I've met across the country. I'm not going to carry the ball, but we're going to make sure somebody is."
On Thursday morning, Inslee formally announced his intention to run for a third term as Washington's Governor.
"I'm excited to do so -- because our great success as a state these last few years gives me confidence that we can continue to lead the nation in so many ways. Our multiple accomplishments have paved the way for much to come in the next term," Inslee said.
Inslee, 68, became the third Democrat to end his presidential bid after U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, pulled out of the primary last month, followed by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last week.
While Inslee had qualified for the first two presidential debates this summer, he struggled to gain traction in the crowded Democratic field and was falling short of the requirements needed to appear on two high-profile stages next month: the third Democratic National Committee debate in Houston and a CNN town hall focused on climate change, Inslee's key issue.
He had recently hit one of the markers — 130,000 unique donors. But he had yet to reach 2% in any poll and would have needed to hit that level of support in four qualifying polls.
Inslee is a former congressman and served as Democratic Governors Association chairman in 2018, when the party flipped seven Republican-held gubernatorial seats. He kicked off his campaign in March in Seattle, standing in front of a blue-and-green campaign logo with an arc of the Earth, declaring climate change the nation's most pressing issue.
Inslee was a champion for the clean energy industry in Congress and wrote a book on the topic. And he's pushed for state policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. On the day he announced his presidential bid, the state Senate passed a key piece of his legislative climate agenda, a measure that seeks to eliminate fossil fuels like natural gas and coal from the state's electricity supply by 2045. The measure, later passed by the House and signed by Inslee in May, made Washington the fourth in the nation to establish a mandate to provide carbon-free electricity by a targeted date. A few additional states have enacted legislation related to clean energy requirements since May, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In addition to pushing for a dedicated debate on climate change, Inslee's campaign has been rolling out climate proposals, including calling for the nation's entire electrical grid and all new vehicles and buildings to be carbon pollution free by 2030. He's also proposed a clean break between the federal government and the fossil fuel industry, ending tax breaks for oil companies and banning all drilling and extraction on federal lands and beneath federal waters.
Inslee released his sixth and final climate proposal, a plan focused on agriculture and farmers, hours before he announced he was dropping out of the race.
In a video released Tuesday on Twitter, Inslee thanked supporters for helping him pass the 130,000 individual donor mark.
"Together we have put the climate crisis front and center in the 2020 race," he said. "And thanks to you, every candidate knows they have to have a robust plan to defeat the climate crisis."
While the filing deadline for the state's 2020 elections isn't until next May, three Democrats have already signaled they will run for governor if Inslee doesn't: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and King County Executive Dow Constantine. The political dominos continue with Democratic candidates lining up to run for attorney general and lands commissioner if Ferguson and Franz end up not seeking reelection to their posts.
A few Republicans have already announced plans to run for governor, including Phil Fortunato, a state senator, and Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, in eastern Washington. A Republican has not occupied the governor's office in more than three decades.
Inslee sent out this statement shortly after his announcement to run for a third term:
As you know, I join you in being rightfully proud of Washington state and what we have accomplished together. It has been a profound honor to represent our state on the national stage in the presidential race. I am grateful for the opportunity to have told the country about Washington state's successful model of progressive action we are building together.
We have provided the nation a road map for innovation, economic growth, and progressive action. And we're not done yet.
I want to continue to stand with you in opposing Donald Trump and rejecting his hurtful and divisive agenda, while strengthening and enhancing Washington state's role as a progressive beacon for the nation.
Which is why I'm announcing today my intention to run for a third term as Washington's governor.
I'm excited to do so -- because our great success as a state these last few years gives me confidence that we can continue to lead the nation in so many ways. Our multiple accomplishments have paved the way for much to come in the next term. We've created the first public option for health care in the nation, the highest increase in average public school teacher pay in the country, and the fastest growing economy in America. That's what we do in Washington --we're innovators, builders, creators -- and I am eager to build and expand on this unique record of progress and economic success for the people of our great state.
Together, we've built an economy that works for working people. Washington has raised the minimum wage to one of the highest in the nation, provided paid sick leave for every worker, and created a best-in-the-nation paid family leave program. We were the first state to protect net neutrality, and we have passed the most sweeping package of voting rights laws in the nation.
We have protected LGBTQI Americans from discrimination, provided affordable health care to over 800,000 Washingtonians through Obamacare, and passed reproductive parity protections for all women. We became the first state to sue against Trump's Muslim ban and passed historic investments in public schools, teacher pay, and infrastructure.
We're also leading the nation in tackling the climate crisis. Our efforts to protect Washington's clean air and water, invest in people's economic security, and stand up for the values of inclusivity and diversity have created thousands of clean energy jobs and made Washington state "the epicenter of resistance to Trump's agenda."
These progressive policies have propelled Washington's economy to be the best in the nation -- and the only state that has been ranked both the best place to work and the best place for business. Since I became governor in 2013, Washington state has ranked number one in both wage growth and GDP growth.
Washington's story shows the economic power of progressive action.
We've made incredible progress together, but there's much more to do. Make no mistake -- we will not be resting on our laurels. We fully intend for Washington's future to be every bit as dynamic, innovative, and inclusive as its past.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and organize. Let's get to work building an even greater Washington together.
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