Skip to main content

Jay Inslee's Track Record on Climate Change and Other Key Issues

The Washington State governor joined the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates on Friday.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announces his run for the 2020 presidency at A & R Solar on March 1st, 2019, in Seattle, Washington.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announces his run for the 2020 presidency at A & R Solar on March 1st, 2019, in Seattle, Washington.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee joined the vast field of Democratic presidential candidates Friday, vowing to make climate change his most important issue.

Inslee, who holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Washington and a law degree from Willamette University, was an attorney and a prosecutor before starting his career in public service in 1985, when he and his wife helped lead an effort to build a new public school in their small town. He served in the state House of Representatives beginning in 1988 and was first elected to the United States Congress in 1992. He was elected as governor in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.

Here's where Inslee stands on key issues.

Climate Change

Many of Inslee's top accomplishments as congressman and governor involve combating climate change. Inslee signed an executive order in 2014 to increase clean energy and to reduce and eventually eliminate coal-fired electricity. In 2015, Inslee directed the Washington Department of Ecology to impose a cap on carbon emissions. He also co-founded and co-chaired the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of 17 U.S. governors working to uphold America's goals from the Paris Agreement. During his time as congressman, he co-wrote the book Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean-Energy Economy about a program to fight climate change and boost the nation's economy through clean energy innovation and job creation.

"[O]ur next president must summon the full energies of our nation to realize what the science is demanding of us," Inslee wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in January. "We must strive to achieve net-zero carbon pollution by midcentury, create a 100 percent clean-energy grid, and deploy new strategies and massive investments to transition off fossil fuels and decarbonize transportation, buildings and industries."

Education and Economics

Inslee has also prioritized education, career training, and the state economy. In 2017, he launched the initiative Career Connect Washington to expand access to high-paying jobs after high school through alternatives to a four-year college degree, including apprenticeships and technical training programs. Under Inslee's leadership, Washington has consistently been ranked as a top state to work and do business in, with one of the nation's highest minimum wages, paid sick leave for all workers, generous paid family and medical leave, and high union membership rates.

Civil Rights

In the realm of civil rights and justice reform, after the state legalized marijuana possession, Inslee launched the Marijuana Justice Initiative to pardon thousands of adults with single marijuana misdemeanor convictions.

Though he once supported capital punishment, he imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014 based on its unequal application. The Washington Supreme Court repealed the death penalty in 2018.

Government Transparency

Inslee has also promoted transparent government. In 2014, he won the Washington Coalition for Open Government's Key Award for refusing to exercise his state Supreme Court-upheld "executive privilege" that would enable him to protect all of his communications from public disclosure.