INSLEE LOSES CLI­MATE FIGHT

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY KELLEN BROWN­ING kbrown­ing@mc­clatchydc.com Kellen Brown­ing, 202-383- 6102, @kel­len_brown­ing

Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee, a po­ten­tial 2020 pres­i­den­tial con­tender, took a big loss at home on a sig­na­ture is­sue.

Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee, a po­ten­tial 2020 pres­i­den­tial con­tender, came to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Wed­nes­day to tout a “his­toric night” for Democrats in state­houses around the coun­try. But he took a big loss at home on a sig­na­ture is­sue.

Inslee, a staunch ad­vo­cate for in­creased en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions and a leader in the fight against cli­mate change, saw one of his pet projects snuffed out on Elec­tion Day.

Wash­ing­ton state vot­ers ap­peared likely to re­ject Ini­tia­tive 1631, which would have im­posed the na­tion’s first car­bon fee on large pol­luters, gen­er­at­ing rev­enue that would be used to clean up the en­vi­ron­ment. The ini­tia­tive trailed 56 to 44 per­cent as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

“Ob­vi­ously we would liked to have had that pass, (but) we were up against about $31 mil­lion of big oil com­pany (money) that ob­fus­cated some of the com­plex­i­ties of the ini­tia­tive,” Inslee said at a brief­ing for the Demo­cratic Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, which he chairs.

Vot­ers’ re­jec­tion of the car­bon fee was the lat­est in a re­cent string of cli- mate-re­lated de­feats for Inslee, who failed to get a car­bon tax vote in Wash­ing­ton’s Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled leg­is­la­ture ear­lier this year. In 2016, vot­ers nixed an­other car­bon fee bal­lot mea­sure.

Inslee has been floated as one of many names who could be part of a crowded field seek­ing the

2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. He cam­paigned for Demo­cratic can­di­dates in the early pres­i­den­tial vot­ing states of Iowa and New Hamp­shire be­fore Tues­day’s midterm elec­tion, and has done lit­tle to quell spec­u­la­tion.

In Oc­to­ber, he told POLITICO that he was “not rul­ing out a run.”

When asked by McClatchy at the Demo­cratic gov­er­nors’ if he was will­ing to say more about a 2020 cam­paign, he said, “uh, no.”

Ear­lier, an Inslee spokesman sketched out a vi­sion of a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who sounds a lot like Inslee him­self.

Inslee “is com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure we have a Demo­cratic can­di­date in

2020 that will put fight­ing cli­mate change and tran­si­tion­ing to a clean en­ergy econ­omy front-and-cen­ter in their cam­paign and the na­tional di­a­logue as a front-burner is­sue,” spokesman Ja­mal Raad said.

“There’s no doubt” that Inslee would make cli­mate change the key is­sue in a pres­i­den­tial run, said Ron Dotza­uer, a Seat­tle-based po­lit­i­cal strate­gist and for­mer Demo­cratic con­sul­tant.

“It is the cor­ner­stone of what­ever he’s go­ing to be talk­ing about. It’s al­ways been his cor­ner­stone,” Dotza­uer said. “You al­ways go to your sweet spot, and so that’s where he would go.”

But Dotza­uer doesn’t think the losses have chipped away at the decades-long rep­u­ta­tion Inslee has built as an ea­ger leader in the bat­tle against cli­mate change.

The car­bon fee’s pas­sage “could have spiked his cred­i­bil­ity even more,” he said. But “in terms of what his am­bi­tions might be, I don’t know that (its fail­ure) has an ad­verse im­pact.”

Still, Dotza­uer is not sure a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign pinned on the en­vi­ron­ment has much chance of suc­cess. Even in lib­eral Wash­ing­ton, Inslee couldn’t get car­bon ini­tia­tives ap­proved. Would an en­vi­ron­men­tal ap­peal have a chance in a na­tional cam­paign?

The en­vi­ron­ment is “not a top-of-mind is­sue,” Dotza­uer said. The is­sues vot­ers care about are “health care, and it’s im­mi­gra­tion and it’s the econ­omy.”

Inslee would have other prob­lems, too. He doesn’t have the same name recog­ni­tion as higher-pro­file con­tenders, like for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den or Sen. Bernie San­ders, In­de­pen­dent-Ver­mont. And there’s a geo­graphic is­sue.

“You’re com­ing from Wash­ing­ton state, and that’s a big li­a­bil­ity,” Dotza­uer said. “You can’t get far­ther away from the epi­cen­ter of pol­i­tics, ex­cept if you’re in Alaska or Hawaii.”

Alex Hays, a Repub­li­can strate­gist based in Ta­coma, thinks the no­tion of Pres­i­dent Inslee is like­wise far-fetched.

“It is ir­ra­tional for Jay Inslee to think about run­ning for the pres­i­dency,” said Hays, who said Inslee’s per­for­mance on the cam­paign trail would be akin to Sec­re­tary of En­ergy Rick Perry’s, who at a 2011 de­bate was mem­o­rably un­able to name a govern­ment agency he wanted to elim­i­nate.

If Democrats had per­formed bet­ter in gov­er­nors races in the midterm and the car­bon fee had passed, “he could claim that he was now mov­ing for­ward on this progress, he could have built a ramp.”

In the mean­time, Inslee is un­de­terred by the car­bon fee loss, and will con­tinue work­ing in the arena he knows best — the en­vi­ron­ment. He said a new state leg­is­la­ture will help him ad­vance cli­mate change leg­is­la­tion in Jan­uary.

“I’m very con­fi­dent about that, be­cause we know we have mul­ti­ple tools in the toolkit to help fight cli­mate change,” he said.

ALYSSA POINTER At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion

Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee, speak­ing in sup­port of Ge­or­gia Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date Stacey Abrams in Sa­van­nah, Ga., on Mon­day, lost a key cli­mate change fight in this state on Tues­day.

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