SEATTLE – Gov. Jay Inslee probably surprised very few people Friday morning by announcing he’s officially running for president. He’s been hinting at it for months.
In a YouTube video released before dawn, and at his first campaign kickoff at a solar company in Seattle, Inslee said he will make climate change the center of his campaign for the White House.
“We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it,” Inslee said at the event.
Inslee, 68, is the first governor to enter the Democratic field, which is crowded and growing more so with each passing week.
He will take his Climate Mission Tour to Iowa next week, the site of the nation’s first precinct caucuses, and follow it up with trips to Nevada and California, which will have early primaries. He recently traveled to New Hampshire, the site of the nation’s first presidential primary.
In his announcement, Inslee called climate change “the greatest challenge of our times” and said the fight to defeat it will create millions of jobs. If elected, he said, “I will make fighting climate change the No. 1 priority of the United States.”
He has made fighting climate change a key element of his tenure as governor, although with limited success. He has failed to persuade the Legislature or the public to adopt key weapons in the fight, like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.
But as he was leaving the stage at his campaign announcement, the state Senate did pass his clean energy plan, sending it to the House on a 28-19 party line vote. The serendipitous timing was due not to Democrats, who control the Legislature, but to Republicans, who refused to allow a final vote on the bill Thursday after nearly two hours of debate over amendments.
That ambitious carbon reduction plan is aligned with Inslee’s 2019-21 budget, which would require the Legislature approving a controversial capital gains tax to provide the money for a long list of new programs that also include better mental health care and reductions in homelessness.
To underline his commitment to renewable energy, Inslee’s formal announcement was partially powered by solar energy. He stood before a crowd in the warehouse of A and R Solar, which in the past 12 years has grown from two employees to 75 as it installs solar panels in Washington and Oregon.
Reeves Clippard, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said power for the rollout was supplied in part by some two dozen solar panels on the roof
Clippard said Inslee has been very supportive of the solar industry, which has been a roller coaster in recent years. But while the company was willing to be the site of Inslee’s announcement, Clippard wasn’t ready yet to say he’d vote for him for president.
“There’s still a lot of campaign left,” he said.
In his campaign kickoff speech, Inslee called for the nation to power its economy with 100 percent carbon-free energy, create millions of good-paying jobs in building electric cars, installing wind turbines and solar panels, make sure no group is left behind by the new economy and “end giveaways to fossil fuel companies.”
He said he wouldn’t take money from those companies for his campaign, and if he’s elected he’d work to end their tax breaks.
In a brief news conference after his speech, Inslee said he would be releasing a comprehensive energy plan in the future to “get the job done.”
In 2012, Inslee resigned his congressional seat to run for governor. Asked if he would resign as governor to run for president – as state Republicans were demanding even before he took the stage Friday – Inslee said he would continue to do both and could work with the Legislature on his priorities.
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said.
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