SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee set a course Thursday for a third term as the state’s chief executive and left a trail of disappointed Democrats in his wake.
He launched his re-election campaign hours after abandoning his quest to be president, a quixotic pursuit that lasted six months and provided a national platform for his ideas on combating climate change.
“We told the Washington story around the United States,” he said at news conference in Seattle. “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.”
Earlier Thursday, in an email to supporters, he wrote that his presidential bid “provided the nation a road map for innovation, economic growth, and progressive action” and he now seeks re-election to enhance the state’s role “as a progressive beacon for the nation.”
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.”
Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, one of the governor’s sharpest critics, said Thursday not to count on him getting an offer anyway.
“Based on his administrative abilities I’d be surprised if anybody would give him a job in the other Washington,” he said.
Inslee’s announcement drew public cheers from leaders of the Democratic Party and statewide labor unions.
“He values and respects the voice and experience of our state’s educators,”said Larry Delaney, the new president of the Washington Education Association. “We look forward to Gov. Inslee’s continued leadership on school funding, workers’ rights and other issues that affect Washington families.”
But Inslee’s decision did collapse sails of those Democrats who had been charting their own course to the governor’s office had he not run again.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and King County Executive Dow Constantine had all been configuring campaigns until Inslee let them in on his plans.
Ferguson and Franz will now stay put and seek re-election in 2020. That means another bunch of Democrats who had been eyeing their seats had their plans torpedoed Thursday.
“I think the governor broke a lot of Democratic hearts by announcing his run for a third term,” said House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm.
Inslee, 68, is attempting to win a third term, a feat accomplished by only two other governors, both Republican, in state history.
Dan Evans won three consecutive terms and served from 1965-77. Arthur Langlie served from 1941-45 and then came back for two more terms, from 1949-57.
At this point, the pack of Republican opponents include Phil Fortunato, a plain-spoken state senator from Auburn, and Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, in eastern Washington, who has said he won’t enforce parts of the most recent voter-approved gun control initiative.
Joshua Freed, a former mayor of Bothell, has registered a campaign committee. So too has businessman Anton Sakharov whose campaign slogan is “Make Evergreen Evergreat”.
Each of them — as well as any other Republican who enters the race — faces long odds because no member of the Grand Old Party has been elected governor in this state since 1980.
Still, state Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich said that he thinks Inslee could be vulnerable.
“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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.