Inslee makes name as Trump critic ahead of 2020

Inslee makes name as Trump critic ahead of 2020
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If there’s a national issue that the Trump administration is facing controversy over, it’s likely that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has something to say about it.

The two-term Democratic governor and former congressman gained attention in February during a White House meeting at which he criticized Trump for proposing that teachers be armed with guns in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla.

“I have listened to the first-grade teachers that don’t want to be pistol-packing, first-grade teachers,” he told Trump in front of a group of governors meeting the president.

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“I have listened to law enforcement who have said they don’t want to have to train teachers as law-enforcement agencies, which takes about six months. I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening,” the Democrat said in comments that raised eyebrows.

Since then, Inslee has regularly piped up on national issues, questioning the detention of illegal immigrant families, the rolling back of the Affordable Care Act and criticizing Trump’s weakening of policies cutting into carbon emissions to combat climate change.

Inslee heads he Democratic Governors Association (DGA), and his stances fall in line with its platform.

The position has given Inslee a greater visibility, raising the idea that he could enter what’s expected to be a crowded Democratic presidential primary in 2020.

Inslee would face big hurdles given a relative lack of name recognition, particularly in comparison to heavyweights such as Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry MORE and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment MORE (I-Vt.), all of who are seen as potential candidates. But his background as a Democratic governor could also help him stand out against the field.

“I still think governors and former governors have potential appeal,” said Democratic strategist Dave Hamrick, who advised Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on his 2016 presidential campaign.

He said Inslee could cast himself as a face of political stability.

“A lot of what Democrats are looking for in the age of Trump is a return to experience, confidence, and policy experience,” he said.

Inslee has taken the safe route on questions about his future, telling a number of outlets that he is focused on the midterm elections, during which Democrats hope to expand the number of governor’s mansions they now hold.

“Well, I am interested in winning in 2018,” Inslee said, when asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in May.

Inslee’s spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Inslee’s activity on the national stage has won attention in Washington, D.C.

In the last year, he’s headlined the Iowa Democratic Party’s annual Hall of Fame Celebration, and visited a number of battleground states ahead of the 2018 midterms. 

This summer alone he traveled to Colorado, Florida and New Mexico, and spoke to the liberal Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans, fueling talk about his future ambitions.

Inslee has been an outspoken critic of Trump, calling him a “bully,” “out of touch,” and someone who shows “moral depravity” in various interviews.

More recently, he’s focused his ire on the White House’s handling of carbon emissions and fires in California and other western states.

“I think it is fair to say that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE is an un-indicted co-conspirator in the premature death of 1,400 people every year if this misbegotten plan went into place,” Inslee said at a press hearing in August following news that the Environmental Protection Agency was dismantling Obama’s capstone carbon cutting regulation.

Inslee’s attacks have not been limited to the president.

In August, the governor blamed Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Overnight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule MORE, a proponent of logging to control forest burns, of being in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry.

“With climate change you have a hotter, drier climate, Mr. Zinke. You have fires. What is there about this that you cannot comprehend?” he told reporters at an event.

“That man (Zinke) would sell his grandchildren for the oil industry.”

An interior spokeswoman called the comments sad and unprofessional at the time.

Political experts say the travel and the comments are a tactic Inslee needs to seize on to get his name in the 2020 line-up.

“One of the challenges for anybody who runs in 2020 is going to be the large and fractious field,” said Hamrick.

“I think everything starts earlier now. I think a lot of rules of the game have changed. In the past we saw people launch their campaigns in the spring and summer.  I think you’ll see a lot of people starting earlier and making their moves not long after the midterms.”

Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, a host at Hill.TV, said Inslee’s experience as a governor might not be that much help.

“We used to think that a Governor of a state was a great precursor to becoming president of the United States…but since 2000 there have been nine governors who have run and none of whom who have been nominated. The bloom is off the rose,” Simmons said.

He added though, that at this point, the race is still anybody’s game. The challenge remains being heard, and Inslee is doing his best to get his voice in public view.

“It’s harder for somebody who is not in the national political stream to animate the progressive base of the party to get them excited, so they will have to work harder to do that, but 2018 is the opportunity to do so,” Simmons said.