Jay Inslee’s hopes to get a Democratic presidential debate on climate change were dashed Wednesday, not by so-called climate deniers but by the organization he hopes to lead in the 2020 election.
The Democratic National Committee informed Inslee’s campaign that it will not host a debate on his signature issue, climate change.
The DNC also said if Inslee participates in anyone else’s climate debate, he won’t be invited to future Democratic debates.
“This is deeply disappointing,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. He accused the national committee of silencing activists, progressive organizations and “nearly half of the Democratic presidential field.”
Polls show the issue is high on the list of issues important to Democratic primary voters, particularly younger ones. An online petition, sponsored by environmental and political activist groups, urging the DNC to hold a climate debate had collected more than 171,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
The Washington State Democratic Party had urged the national committee to sponsor a climate debate and hold it in Washington.
The national committee said Wednesday that climate change is important and will be a priority during debates, but it wants broader discussions in those events.
“While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters,” the organization said in statement reported by Politico.
The two-term Washington governor has staked his presidential campaign on the issue, saying fighting climate change will be his top priority if he’s elected. On Wednesday, he announced a Global Climate Mobilization Plan during a speech in New York City at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Other Democratic presidential candidates have addressed the issue to varying degrees; some have compared their plans to that of the so-called Green New Deal from progressive House Democrats.
Inslee also criticized the proposal for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice, announced Wednesday by former Vice President Joe Biden, the early front-runner for the nomination, as being too slow and lacking teeth and ambition.
“He has some wishes for 30 years from now, but we can’t wait 30 years,” Inslee said.
President Donald Trump has previously referred to human-caused climate change as a hoax that was invented by the Chinese to make the United States noncompetitive. While he has stepped back from that, after a meeting Wednesday with the United Kingdom’s Prince Charles, Trump told the BBC he believes there is extreme weather but “it goes both ways.”
Inslee has met the threshold for donors and support in designated candidate polls to be included among 20 candidates in Democratic debates to be held over two nights in June and July. But he will need stronger polling numbers and more donors to qualify for the next round of debates in the fall.
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