Washington Gov. Inslee enters the presidential race with climate change his focus

Image: Governor Jay Inslee speaks at the Battle Born Progress Progressive S
Governor Jay Inslee speaks at the Battle Born Progress Progressive Summit in Las Vegas on Jan. 12, 2019. -
John Locher AP
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SEATTLE, Washington — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he is running for president, centering his campaign around climate change, calling it "the most urgent challenge of our time."

"This crisis isn't just a chart or graph anymore," Inslee says in a video released by his campaign. "The impacts are being felt everywhere. We have an opportunity to transform our economy, run on 100 percent clean energy that will bring millions of good paying jobs to every community across America, and create a more just future for everyone."

Inslee joins a crowded field as the latest Democrat to throw his hat into the ring for the 2020 contest, and the first governor to enter a race that already features a handful of senators and a mayor, among others, with more expected to jump in soon.

That Inslee would center his candidacy around climate change isn't surprising. He is no stranger to the climate fight — pushing a green agenda both in Washington state and in Washington, D.C., during his years in Congress.

Inslee's tenure as governor include wins on environmentally-friendly initiatives — like a Clean Energy Fund that seeks to grow clean energy businesses and a green transportation infrastructure package that was the largest in state history. But his crusade hasn't been without its failures.

In one of the most liberal states in the country, Inslee failed to pass a statewide climate tax in 2018. After the loss, Inslee told NBC News he remained steadfast in his resolve: "Climate change is not going away, and neither are we."

Inslee isn't alone on climate change but the real test for his candidacy will likely be explaining how to do it.

While some Democrats in D.C., like freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have championed the Green New Deal, Inslee looks at it as more of a jumping off point for how to tackle the problem.

"I liken it back to the original Apollo mission," he said in a recent interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, adding that President John F. Kennedy "did not give you the design of the retrorockets when he said we were going to the moon, right?"

Inslee also has not shied away from blunt criticisms of President Donald Trump — he's referred to him as "the commander in chief of delusion" and a "monster" in interviews — and the Washington governor has taken the president on face to face.

During a meeting at the White House last year after the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Inslee suggested "a little less tweeting here and a little more listening" as he pressed Trump to take arming teachers off the table in future school safety policies.