In the span of a few days, the Washington Democrat, who had obsessively championed climate change whilein the race, spoke with four remaining presidential contenders: former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Vice President Joe Biden. Others still in the primary left texts or voicemails but had yet to connect.
According to Inslee’s spokesperson, Jamal Raad, O’Rourke and Sanders connected with the governor the night he withdrew from the field. “It was just kind of quick pleasantry gracious conversations,” Raad said, adding that Sanders told Inslee he would be releasing his own sweeping climate change plan the next day and asking for him to take a look. The governor has not had a chance to closely examine it yet.
The following day, Raad said, Biden called and “explicitly asked for advice.” And before Warren held a weekend rally in Seattle, they connected as well. Warren and Biden briefly mentioned their calls with Inslee to reporters. The campaigns for O’Rourke and Sanders confirmed that they had spoken with Inslee as well.
The calls illustrate the degree to which Inslee has turned his relatively brief presidential bid into a new role within the party: a sought after imprimatur for any Democrat trying to establish their climate change bonafides.
During his run, Inslee put together 200 pages of detailed climate policy proposals, aggressively pushed for a climate change debate—which the Democratic National Committee recently, formally shot down—and accumulated more than 130,000 donors who appeared drawn to his message. The governor never made much headway in the polls. But his run earned him plaudits among party officials and a national profile that—despite previously serving as a member of Congress and the head of the Democratic Governors Association—he had not previously had.
A 2020 endorsement, Raad said, was not discussed on the calls and likely won’t be offered by Inslee any time soon. Instead, the governor is offering up both his policy papers and climate staff to those remaining candidates who are interested in fleshing out their own platforms.
“When he dropped out, he said that he wants his 200 pages of plans to be open-sourced,” Raad said. “Openly inviting folks to take from it generously and liberally for their own plans.”
There is some value for Inslee in maintaining ties to the party luminaries as well. He is running for a third term as governor and will undoubtedly seek the help and assistance of the would-be Democratic presidential candidate. But the near term objective is to make sure that climate policy doesn’t disappear as a campaign interest with him out of the race.
“I think he thinks that everyone can and needs to up their game,” Raad said. “And that he has a role to play to help them up their game on both the ambition and the prioritization. And that he feels like he can play a role in kind of making sure that folks know that when they get a call from Jay Inslee they’re going to hear about this.”