Jay Inslee, climate change opponent and the only Democrat backed by a super PAC, drops out of the 2020 presidential race

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Gov. Jay Inslee speaking with an attendee at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, June 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Jay Inslee, whose presidential campaign was almost entirely focused on fighting climate change, dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination on Wednesday night. The Washington governor made his announcement on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show.

“It’s become clear that I’m not going to be carrying the ball, I’m not going to be the president, so I’m withdrawing tonight from the race,” Inslee told Maddow. “But I have to tell you — look — I’ve been fighting climate change for 25 years and I’ve never been so confident of the ability of America now to reach critical mass to move the ball.”

Inslee’s singular focus on climate change failed to make him stand out in the field of more than 20 candidates; the other candidates have also described climate change as an existential threat and agreed that major changes must be made in the next 12 years.

Beyond his stance on climate change, Inslee offered little else to Democrats deciding which candidate to back, as his appearance at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in June demonstrated.

While 19 candidates addressed party activists and elected officials inside the DoubleTree in downtown Cedar Rapids, outside, members of Greenpeace displayed a scoreboard ranking candidates’ climate change proposals. Inslee was the only candidate to receive an “A.”

Demonstrators from Greenpeace outside of the Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, June 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

After Inslee finished speaking about climate change he largely discussed Washington’s economy, claiming it has the best economy of any state. But another candidate at the Hall of Fame, Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, had already used a different set of statistics to claim his state had the country’s best economy. (Hickenlooper dropped out last week.)

Inslee’s only other distinguishing characteristic as a candidate was less high-minded than his climate advocacy. He was the only Democratic presidential candidate who had a super PAC aligned with his campaign. As other candidates were rejecting the support of PACs and stressing the importance of grassroots fundraising, Act Now on Climate spent more than $1 million on pro-Inslee advertising. The super PAC began running TV commercials in Iowa promoting Inslee in March, but in the most recent Iowa Poll, the governor was one of the many candidates at the bottom of the pack, with support of just 1 percent of Iowa Democrats.

Inslee, who is in his second term as governor of Washington, is widely expected to run for reelection next year.

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