Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spoke six times during Wednesday’s Democratic debate, largely sticking on topic on his top issue: climate change.
But he also stressed his experience, highlighting policies attractive to the Democratic electorate that have become law since he became governor.
In the debate’s two hours, Inslee spoke for a little less than five minutes, less than most other candidates. The website 538 reported that Inslee spoke fewer words than any of the nine other candidates. He did, however, mention President Donald Trump four times. Only Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar mentioned him more.
Here’s a review of the six times he got a chance to talk:
It took about 16 minutes before Inslee got a chance to speak, when he was asked how he would address income inequality.
Inslee’s main answer was that he would give strong support to unions.
“We’ve got to realize the people who brought us the weekend – unions – are going to bring us a long overdue raise in America. And I’m proud of standing up for unions,” Inslee said. “I have a plan to reinvigorate collective bargaining so we can increase wages, finally.”
He pivoted to his top issue, climate change, by adding that he would promote the creation of “clean energy jobs.”
“The next thing I’ll do is put people to work in the jobs of the present and the future,” Inslee said. “Donald Trump is simply wrong. He says wind turbines cause cancer. We know they cause jobs.”
Health care debate
Inslee was able to elbow his way into a conversation on health care to tout Washington’s decision earlier this year to enter the private health insurance market with a public option available to anyone regardless of income.
“I am the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health in health insurance, and I’m the only candidate who has passed a public option,” he said. “And I respect everybody’s goals and plans here, but we do have one candidate that’s actually advanced the ball. And we’ve got to have access for everyone. I’ve done it as a public option.”
His statement regarding woman’s reproductive health was immediately mocked by Klobuchar.
“I just want to say that we have three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose,” she said.
Inslee was asked what he would do on Day 1 about families separated and in detention centers.
He quickly responded directly to the question, saying there is no reason for the detention and separation of the families. They should be released pending a hearing and “the law should be followed,” he said.
He went on to stress his record in Washington.
“I’m proud that we’ve passed a law that prevents local law enforcement from being turned into mini ICE agents,” he said.
He was referring to a new state law that forbids local officials from helping federal agents enforce some civil immigration laws.
Inslee managed to remind the crowd that Washington was the first state to challenge Trump’s first attempt to limit immigration in a lawsuit that was successful.
“I’m proud to have been the first governor to stand up against Donald Trump’s heinous Muslim ban,” he said.
He also pointed to protections and programs the state has approved to help dreamers, people who entered the United States illegally as children.
There could never have been a doubt that Inslee would get the first crack at climate change, and he did. Rachel Maddow’s question noted the debate was being held in Miami, which already is experiencing significant problems related to climate change.
“Does your plan save Miami?” she said.
It would, he said, “by taking away the filibuster from Mitch McConnell, to start with.”
Inslee has argued that it would be nearly impossible to make progress on climate change policy unless the Senate ended the filibuster.
“We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last that can do something about it. Our towns are burning. Our fields are flooding. Miami is inundated.”
He touted climate change policies already approved in Washington, saying they’ve “been called the gold standard of putting people to work.”
“But the most important thing on this, in the biggest decision for the American public is, who is going to make this the first priority? And I am the candidate and the only one who’s saying this has to be the top priority of the United States, the organizing principle to mobilize the United States, so that we can do what we’ve always done, lead the world and invent the future and put 8 million people to work. That’s what we’re going to do.”
All the candidate were given just a few seconds to answer the question: What is the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States right now?
“The biggest security threat to the United States is Donald Trump,” Inslee said.
It got loud cheers from the Democratic audience, but it also allowed former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to swoop in on Inslee’s top issue to claim climate change as the top threat.
Inslee ended on-topic – climate change – again stressing that he’s the only candidate that promises to make it the top issue in the White House.
“If you join me in that recognition of how important this is, we can have a unified national mission. We can save ourselves,” he said. “We can save our children. We can save our grandchildren. And we can save literally the life on this planet. This is our moment.”
This report used a transcript of the debate from the Washington Post.
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