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Inslee to Seek Third Term as Washington Governor

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee heads out after speaking with reporters about his plans to run for a third term, Aug. 22, 2019, in Seattle. Inslee ended his climate change-focused 2020 presidential bid a day earlier.

SEATTLE - Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced his bid for a third term as governor Thursday, saying that while it was an honor to run for president, he wants to continue his work leading the state.

``We told the Washington story around the United States,'' he told reporters in Seattle following a news conference at Planned Parenthood regarding the Title X family planning program. ``Being able to tell that story led to some good things, even though I won't be the nominee, including the fact that we have elevated the climate change crisis to where it belongs. I'm very proud to have served for that purpose.''

Inslee had sent an email to supporters earlier in the day detailing his plans following his announcement Wednesday night that he was ending his 2020 presidential bid after nearly six months.

He had made fighting climate change the central theme of his campaign and said he was confident that Democrats would select a nominee who would champion climate change issues.

Not interested in Cabinet job

When asked if he would consider a Cabinet position like head of the Environmental Protection Agency if it were offered, he said no.

``There was one position in Washington, D.C., that I thought I was interested in, and I will not be serving in that capacity,'' he said. ``So I'm looking forward to serving as governor if people give me this option.''

Governors in Washington state aren't subject to term limits, though most haven't served more than two terms. The last three-term governor in Washington was Republican Dan Evans, who served from 1965 until 1977.

FILE - Jay Inslee speaks during the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 26, 2019.
FILE - Jay Inslee speaks during the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 26, 2019.

Three Democrats had already signaled they would run for governor, but only if Inslee didn't: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and King County Executive Dow Constantine. The political dominoes continued with Democratic candidates lining up to run for attorney general and lands commissioner if Ferguson and Franz ended up not seeking re-election to their posts. All have said they wouldn't challenge incumbents if Inslee ran for a third term.

Franz said Wednesday night that she was not disappointed about not entering the governor's race, saying that she loved her current job and would seek re-election because she had ``a lot of work to do.'' Ferguson, who had already said he would seek re-election to a third term as attorney general if Inslee ran again, was at the Seattle event Thursday, as was Constantine.

Ferguson said he wasn't disappointed by Inslee's decision, saying ``he's earned the right to run for a third term.''

Republican candidates

A few Republicans have already announced plans to run for governor, including Phil Fortunato, a state senator, and Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, in eastern Washington. A Republican has not occupied the governor's office in more than three decades.

State Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich said he thought Inslee could be vulnerable in a re-election bid.

``Getting elected to a third term is a tough task,'' he said. ``And doing so on the heels of a failed presidential campaign where you sent a message to voters that you want a different job, that doesn't sit very well.''

When asked what he thought about the Republican candidates, Inslee responded, ``I don't think about them.''

Inslee, 68, became the third Democrat to end his presidential bid. U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell of California pulled out of the race last month, and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper left last week.

While Inslee had qualified for the first two presidential debates this summer, he struggled to gain traction in the crowded Democratic field and was falling short of the requirements needed to appear on two high-profile stages next month: the third DNC debate in Houston and a CNN town hall focused on climate change, Inslee's key issue.

He had recently hit one of the markers — 130,000 unique donors. But he had yet to reach 2% in any poll and would have needed to hit that level of support in four qualifying polls.