SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ended his presidential run Wednesday evening, announcing it had become clear that his climate change-focused campaign would not be successful.
The Associated Press, citing two people close to Inslee, reported that he plans to run for a third term as governor.
Since launching his campaign in March, Inslee has laid out a series of ambitious plans to combat climate change, calling it the preeminent issue the next president must take on. Those plans have drawn praise from activists, environmentalists and even his fellow candidates, but Inslee was unable to catch on with voters in early polls.
His campaign on Monday celebrated that he’d amassed 130,000 separate donors, surpassing a threshold set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for the third televised debate next month. But he was never close to the DNC’s other threshold — 2 percent support in early polls. He didn’t reach the mark in any poll and his polling average hovered just barely above zero.
On Wednesday morning, Inslee released the sixth plank of his comprehensive plan to combat climate change and transform the national economy. But just 12 hours later, he announced that he was done.
“Our mission to defeat climate change must continue to be central to our national discussion — and must be the top priority for our next president,” Inslee wrote in a message to supporters Wednesday night. “But I’ve concluded that my role in that effort will not be as a candidate to be the next president of the United States.”
“There are other avenues for me to be very effective at pushing the climate change message,” Inslee said, in an interview on MSNBC, where he announced his withdrawal.
Inslee, through a campaign spokeswoman, declined an interview request. He said he would provide a statement Thursday about his political plans.
Inslee stressed the importance of unifying the Democratic Party to beat President Donald Trump.
“We should attack him at his weakest point with our strongest candidate,” he said. “We need to find that candidate.” He gave no hint that he was ready to endorse one of his erstwhile opponents.
Inslee’s name has been bandied about as a potential Cabinet secretary — potentially leading the Department of the Interior or the Environmental Protection Agency — if Democrats are able to retake the White House in 2020.
Almost every leading Democrat remaining in the presidential race praised Inslee Wednesday night.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders congratulated him on “his impactful campaign to bring the climate crisis to the forefront.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris said that “few leaders have done more” than Inslee to spotlight the climate crisis and that “his voice will be missed.”
“Jay Inslee didn’t find his lane, but he impressed me with his smart, earnest advocacy around climate change,” David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, wrote Wednesday. “He leaves with his dignity in tact and reputation enhanced, which isn’t always true in presidential races.”
In his letter to supporters, he noted that almost every Democratic presidential candidate has released plans to fight climate change and that both MSNBC and CNN are planning climate town-hall events, partially in response to his repeated calls for a climate-focused debate. But Inslee would have been locked out of the CNN event, focused on his signature issue, as the network used the same polling threshold as the DNC.
Other officials in Washington state including Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and King County Executive Dow Constantine have said they were eyeing the governor’s office should Inslee choose not to run for a third term.
Constantine, on Wednesday night, said Inslee had called to say he was ending his presidential bid. He said the two had discussed Inslee’s forthcoming plans, but Constantine wouldn’t say what they were.
“I’ll let him speak,” said Constantine, referring to an expected Thursday announcement by Inslee.
Constantine credited Inslee with successfully inserting climate change into the debate among Democratic presidential contenders.
“They’re going to have a climate debate on CNN in large part because of his efforts and I think that’s critical,” said Constantine. “I think that he did a great service to our nation and the world in demanding that the most important issue be front and center.”