SEATTLE — Jay Inslee announced Thursday morning he will seek a third term as Washington’s governor, hours after ending his longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Inslee made the announcement in an email blast to supporters, saying he wants to “continue to stand with you in opposing Donald Trump and rejecting his hurtful and divisive agenda.”
He’ll be the first Washington governor in nearly 50 years to seek a third term.
“I’m announcing today my intention to run for a third term as Washington’s governor,” Inslee wrote. “Our great success as a state these last few years gives me confidence that we can continue to lead the nation in so many ways.”
Inslee pointed to a list of legislative accomplishments from his first two terms and said he’s eager to build on that success. He touted Washington’s fast-growing economy, steps to create a public health insurance option and increases in teacher pay — implemented to remedy the long-running McCleary lawsuit. He noted the hike in Washington’s minimum wage and new policies guaranteeing sick leave and paid family leave for workers.
A former congressman from Bainbridge Island who was elected Washington’s governor in 2012 and 2016, Inslee labored to gain traction in a presidential bid that focused almost solely on fighting climate change.
The run allowed him — during national TV interviews and a few minutes’ speaking time in debates — to bring wider attention to the issue.
Inslee’s campaign attracted more than 130,000 separate donors, surpassing a threshold set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to qualify for the third televised debate next month. But he was never close to the DNC’s other threshold — 2% support in early polls.
As he struggled to break through among about two dozen Democratic presidential candidates, Inslee never ruled out a third term back home. That left several Democratic politicians in the state with higher ambitions in limbo.
The Washington State Republican Party has slammed Inslee for not reimbursing Washington for the security detail he used during his out-of-state campaign travel, as well as being away for much of the year.
GOP party chairman Caleb Heimlich re-upped those criticisms Wednesday night.
“We need and deserve a Governor who actually wants the job,” tweeted Heimlich. “Who wants to help clean up our communities, tackle out of control congestion, keep taxes low on the hardworking families of Washington State. We need to elect a Republican Governor in 2020.”
So far, the most high-profile Republican campaigning for governor is state Sen. Phil Fortunato of Auburn. Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic in Ferry County, has also announced as a Republican, and Anton Sakharov has filed as a Republican to raise money for a bid.
No Republican has won a race for Washington governor since John Spellman in 1980. The last governor to win a third term in the state was Republican Gov. Dan Evans, in 1972.
State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski said she was “thrilled” that Inslee was seeking a third term and is “confident the governor will win reelection.”
Thursday’s announcement by Inslee appeared to upend the aspirations of a slew of Democratic politicians eyeing higher office.
Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz had discussed bids for governor if Inslee didn’t run again.
Constantine, shortly after Inslee officially announced that he’d seek a third term, thanked him for “bringing Northwest values to the presidential race.” He also joked about the predicament that Inslee’s plans have left him in — eyeing a higher office, but loath to challenge a popular incumbent whom he’s friendly with.
“I’m looking forward to finally starting that book club that Hilary Franz, Bob Ferguson and I have been talking about,” he wrote on Twitter.