British Columbia

Washington governor joins crowded Democratic nomination race with climate-focused message

Making climate change his No. 1 priority, Washington state governor Jay Inslee has launched his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

U.S. must 'rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change,' Jay Inslee says

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee takes questions in Olympia, Wash., in January. Inslee joins a crowded Democratic field of candidates for the nomination. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

Making climate change his No. 1 priority, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has launched his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

"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," said the 68-year-old governor in a video announcement.

It will not be easy for Inslee to garner attention, with six prominent senators — Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — already running.

Former vice-president Joe Biden and former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke are also expected to make highly anticipated 2020 announcements in the coming weeks.

Inslee joined B.C. Premier John Horgan in March 2018 to announce that the province is joining a U.S. study looking at the feasibility of creating a high-speed rail line running between Vancouver and Seattle. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Inslee acknowledges his underdog status but says his emphasis on combating climate change will set him apart.

"Climate change is a unifying issue," Inslee told the Associated Press in a recent interview, calling it a moral necessity and an economic opportunity.

He promises substantial investment in clean energy sources that reduce American dependence on fossil fuels.

"This issue is connected to virtually every other value system and thing we want to do in our communities," he said.

Inslee may have a larger opening on climate since billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer has passed on a national campaign, opting instead to continue his advocacy for impeaching and removing U.S. President Donald Trump from office. 

Steyer hasn't indicated whether he'll use his fortune to back a presidential candidate, but he welcomed Inslee's announcement, tweeting Friday: "It's good to know that a climate champion like [Inslee] will be in the race, pushing the country to recognize what is at stake."

As an unabashed liberal, ​Inslee has governed Washington promoting clean energy, gay rights, abortion rights, environmental preservation, tighter gun restrictions and more spending for education and job training.

Inslee grew up in the Seattle area and started his legal and political career in small-town central Washington, where he won a state legislative post and, for one term, a congressional seat, before being knocked out in the Republican sweep of 1994.

He later returned to Congress representing a Metro Seattle district for 12 years, before resigning to run for and win the governor's office in 2012.

Familiar guest on U.S. cable news

Inslee raised his profile serving as Democratic Governors Association chairman in 2018. Inslee became a familiar guest to cable news audiences, using the opportunity to lambaste Trump on such issues as immigration and ethics.

"During the past two years, we've been challenged by federal actions that appeal more to our darker natures than our better angels," Inslee said in his January address of the Washington Legislature.

"But we know that's not who we are."

Bill Barrow and Rachel La Corte

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