Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, launches a climate-first presidential campaign

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, says climate change must be the nation's No. 1 priority.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee entered the presidential race early Friday morning focused on just one issue: climate change.

The Democrat, who remains an unknown to most voters outside the West, plans to run a campaign built around his record fighting global warming, a crusade he says must take priority over everything else. The unconventional approach was unveiled in a campaign launch video.

“I’m running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s No. 1 priority,” Inslee says in the video.


The 68-year-old governor will hold his first campaign event Friday afternoon at a solar installation facility in Seattle.

2020 Democratic presidential candidates: Who’s in and who’s on the fence? »

Climate change long ranked low on the scale of voter priorities, but that has changed recently. Inslee’s launch comes at a time that Democratic primary voters are particularly motivated by the issue. A recent poll by the Center for American Progress found that Democrats in five states with early primaries, including California, rank climate alongside healthcare as the issues that concern them most.

The Washington governor’s campaign will seek to distinguish him from the many other primary candidates, several of them better-known than Inslee, who also are making the fight against global warming a key campaign point. His video and biography highlight the substantial climate action Washington state has pursued under his watch. None of the other candidates in the race so far can match his record on the issue.

But Washington also stands out as an example of the political limitations of climate change. The boldest efforts Inslee has championed — at the ballot box and in the Legislature — to reorient the state’s economy around the fight against warming have so far fallen short.

Inslee argues that all big social change comes with setbacks along the way.

“We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change,” he said in the video. “And we’re the last who can do something about it.”