Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced in a video Friday morning that he will run for president, becoming the first governor to join a crowded field vying for the Democratic nomination.
Inslee, 68, made clear in his announcement video that he will put the battle against climate change at the heart of his platform like no other candidate would.
"We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last that can do something about it. We went to the moon and created technologies that have changed the world. Our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change," Inslee says in the video. "I'm running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's No. 1 priority."
Inslee is the first serious presidential candidate to launch a bid for the White House from Washington State in more than 40 years, since the late Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (D) ran in 1976.
But while Jackson announced his presidential run from the National Press Club, Inslee's video shows scenes of his native Pacific Northwest, from gritty Harbor Island in the industrial section of Seattle to the epicenter of forest fires, magnified by climate change, that have ravaged parts of the West.
Even the flavor of Inslee's video is meant to evoke Seattle and the music scene that has defined the city since the grunge era. The announcement video was produced by Dan Kully, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked on former Sen. Bob Kerrey's (D-Neb.) 1992 campaign, and Jason Koenig, a Seattle native and music video producer who has worked for artists such as Macklemore and Ed Sheeran.
Inslee has long plotted a run for president based around his record combating climate change. More than a decade ago, he co-authored a book titled "Apollo's Fire" that made the case that moving to a clean energy economy would become an economic message for the Democratic Party, and his announcement video is filled with clips from his days as a member of Congress.
In an interview in December, Inslee pointed to his book as evidence that he had been ahead of his time on climate change.
"I wrote the Green New Deal. I wrote it 10 years ago. Welcome to the party. I'm very happy that some other candidates are talking about climate change. It's a good thing," Inslee told The Hill. "I had a different brand, which was 'Apollo's Fire.'"
Inslee faces long odds in a primary field that includes some well-known senators who have stolen a march on the rest of the field. Few Democratic voters know Inslee's name, while senators such as Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSymone Sanders to leave the White House at the end of the year Bidens to attend Kennedy Center Honors following Trumps' absence Trump: McConnell must use debt limit to crush Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory BookerPoll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (D-N.J.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSymone Sanders to leave the White House at the end of the year Briahna Joy Gray says Chris Cuomo will return to CNN following scandal Postal Service expansion into banking services misguided MORE (I-Vt.) draw thousands to rallies and raise millions of dollars.
Emerson College, the most recent pollster to test the Democratic electorate in Iowa, did not include Inslee in its most recent poll in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
Even some Inslee fans wonder whether a straight white male governor from a Western state could break through the most ethnically and geographically diverse field in the Democratic Party's history.
"I do think about where he fits in all of this," said one House Democratic lawmaker who knows Inslee. "Given that there are a lot of senators running, he can portray himself as an executive much better than [former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián] Castro or [South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete] Buttigieg. He is more of an outsider and can fill that executive branch lane."
But Inslee has chosen a lane that virtually every Democratic primary voter cares about — and one that comes with its own high-dollar donors. Inslee has hired several top staffers who worked for Tom Steyer, the California billionaire hedge fund manager and climate change activist who decided against running for president.
Inslee has ingratiated himself with some of those big donors during his year running the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), when the party scored seven pickups in Republican-held states in 2018. He may be hoping that some of those donors fund a super PAC, Act Now On Climate run by former top DGA staffer Corey Platt, dedicated to supporting his presidential campaign.
Inslee plans a press conference later Friday morning at a solar panel installation company in Seattle to discuss his bid.
Scott Wong contributed.