Washington Gov. Jay Inslee drops bid for 2020 Democratic presidential nomination

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Jay Inslee, who focused his presidential campaign on the threat of climate change, has ended his bid for the White House. 

The Democrat made the announcement Wednesday during an interview on MSNBC.

"It's become clear that I'm not going to be carrying the ball," Inslee told cable host Rachel Maddow. "I'm not going to be the president, so I'm withdrawing tonight from the race."

His decision comes a week before the cutoff date to qualify for next month's Democratic primary debate in Houston.

Inslee, 68, has served as the governor of Washington since 2013. Previously, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995 and from 1999 to 2012. After a failed run for governor in 1996, he served as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton. 

Inslee announced his candidacy in March, emphasizing the issue on which he staked his campaign: aggressive climate action. 

“Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change,” Inslee said in his campaign announcement video. Inslee’s team released many detailed policy plans on his website, though they were framed primarily within the context of climate action

The policies included a 100% Clean Energy for America Plan intended “to achieve 100% clean electricity, 100% zero-emission new vehicles, and 100% zero-carbon new buildings,” as well as a decade-long, $9 trillion “Evergreen Economy” plan focused on building a green economy, infrastructure, and manufacturing. 

“We have to act now,” Inslee said during the second Democratic primary debate. “Look: climate change is not a singular issue, it is all the issues we Democrats care about — it is health, it is national security, it is our economy.”

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During the first Democratic debate, Inslee grilled former Vice President Joe Biden on his own plan to tackle climate change. “Mr. Vice President, your argument is not with me, it’s with science," he told Biden. "And your plan is just too late." 

When asked if he would lead the country in moving away from coal- and fracking-based energy, Biden said he’d “work it out... we will make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either of those, any fossil fuels.” 

“We cannot work it out," Inslee interrupted. "The house is on fire.”

Democratic presidential candidate governor Jay Inslee of Washington during the second night of the Democratic presidential debates at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on Tuesday, July 31, 2019.

Inslee’s climate plans have garnered national attention for the Washington governor. Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has called Inslee’s agenda “the gold standard.”

Inslee’s team fundraised $2.25 million during the first quarter of his campaign and $3 million during the second. Although his polling and funding numbers were well behind those of top tier candidates, Inslee’s bold message about climate change drew strong support from the few it reached. 

The super PAC Act Now On Climate raised about $2.2 million of Inslee’s total haul from eight donors, as they reported to the Federal Election Commission in August. 

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Inslee was one of only three Democratic candidates whom super PACs supported during this election cycle, along with former Colorado Gov, John Hickenlooper and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Of the three, Inslee was the only one to embrace a super PAC’s support. 

“[Act Now] wants to defeat climate change, and this is something I’ve been very passionate about for decades,” Inslee told the Associated Press. “So, no, I won’t be condemning any organization that’s trying to defeat climate change.” 

In a tweet Wednesday night, Inslee told his followers that "I know you agree that 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."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., another 2020 Democrat, tweeted thanking Inslee for his effort to highlight the need to fight climate change.  

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., another in the 2020 Democratic primary field, tweeted her gratitude for Inslee's work to "shine a light on the climate crisis."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., another 2020 Democrat, tweeted that Inslee had "an impactful campaign." 

Inslee said in his MSNBC interview that he will be making statements about "his intentions" in the next few days in terms of his next steps now that his presidential bid is over.