GOFFSTOWN — While he trails the ever-growing list of Democratic presidential hopefuls in name recognition, Washington governor and potential 2020 contender Jay Inslee now leads the prospective Democratic field in one niche category: the only candidate — declared or otherwise — to use the words “climate change” over 20 times in a single Granite State appearance.
In a Tuesday morning roundtable discussion with Saint Anselm students at the college’s Institute of Politics, Inslee mentioned climate change 21 times during a 25-minute address in which he stated that the fight against climate change was an “urgent matter” that the next presidential administration should “intensely focus on as a first and foremost priority.”
Referencing a trip he had made in the aftermath of the wildfires that ravaged Paradise, Calif., last year, Inslee said he believes climate change has left the halls of academia and evolved into a personal problem in the daily lives of many Americans.
“What used to be a graph on a chart is now a reality in our lives,” said Inslee. “And because of that, we just have to recognize this simple premise on climate change and it’s this: we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation who can do something about it.”
Inslee described Americans as “the most creative, innovative and entrepreneurial people in history,” and told the 45 students in attendance that the need to harness clean energy technology would be the “greatest economic opportunity that our country has in the upcoming decade.”
The Washington native’s full-throated call for climate action is nothing new, with Inslee’s public support for combating climate change going back to a 2002 editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in which he called on Congress to launch an aggressive climate initiative that paralleled President John F. Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon.
Dubbing his proposal “New Apollo Project,” Inslee wrote that leveraging America’s “can-do attitude” in the fight against climate change would “design, invent and deploy the new clean energy technologies that befit this new century.”
Flash forward to 2019 and Inslee, now in his second term as governor, sounds much the same, advocating for a “suite” of environmental policies that range from clean fuel and new energy efficient building codes to broader access to tax incentives for electric cars.
Inslee said he would not rule out a carbon tax as a way to fund some of his green proposals, but went on to say that the political debate over whether or not to institute one could get in the way of quick action on climate change.
Last year, voters in Washington rejected a $15 per ton carbon tax brought forth by Inslee, amounting to Inslee’s third failure to institute a carbon tax in his home state since becoming governor in 2013.
Beyond Inslee’s concerns over the warming climate, questions swirled over the Washington governor’s chilly relationship with New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, who publicly criticized Inslee’s failure as chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association to devote money to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly’s 2018 campaign against Gov. Chris Sununu.
Citing a meeting he held with Buckley before his stop at Saint Anselm, Inslee rejected the notion that there was any bad blood between he and the state Democratic party, going on to say that the two men discussed “the challenges of limited funding” in a campaign.
Buckley declined to comment on anything regarding Inslee’s involvement in the Democratic Governor’s Association, but did describe the governor as “very personable,” and stated his opinion that Granite Staters would “respond very kindly” if Inslee chose to run in 2020.
Inslee says he’s still seriously considering becoming a candidate, and said he expects to make a final decision in “weeks, not months.”
If he decides not to run, Inslee says he will insist that the Democrats put forward a candidate who will make climate change a primary component of their campaign against President Donald Trump, who Inslee branded a “climate denier.”
Saint Anselm junior Emily Mayer said she admired Inslee’s command of environmental issues, and designated Inslee as a good choice for people interested in climate change.
“If any voter is backing the issue of climate change, I think he’s a really good candidate for it,” said Mayer.