Washington Governor Jay Inslee starts a new national role this week, taking over as chair of the Democratic Governors Association. With his national profile on the rise, some have speculated the governor could be eyeing a run for higher office in 2020.
“I've got too many things on my plate to think about those issues,” Governor Inslee told KING 5 during a recent trip to Victoria, British Columbia.
However, national media has included him on the early lists of Democrats, who may be thinking of a presidential run.
CNN noted a media boost following Washington State’s role in blocking the initial version of President Trump’s travel order last January, naming him as one of 22 Democrats who could be considering a bid.
“I think he's working hard and traveling to states that are going to be competitive next year and help elect Democrats,” said Seattle political consultant Christian Sinderman, who has worked on the governor’s past campaigns.
“I think his profile has grown and this is an important time to show some national leadership,” said Sinderman of the governor.
While advisors to the governor declined to talk about his future plans or aspirations, Washington state has historically not been known as a launch pad for presidential candidates. The late Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson ran twice in the 1970s, but no Washington governors to date.
“Traditionally, Washington being a small to medium size state in the northwest corner of the country does provide additional challenges both in terms of visibility and geography,” explained Sinderman.
“But again, that's not any current focus of this governor. He's got a legislative session approaching and a lot of help he can give to future colleagues around the country,” Sinderman continued.
Of the 36 gubernatorial races next year, Republicans will defend 26 positions.
“As Democrat governors and Democrat gubernatorial candidates continue to push unpopular anti-jobs, anti-growth policies while struggling to find a coherent message to run on, the number of Democrat chief executives in the states will continue to stay at record lows,” the Republican Governors Association said in a statement.
“If the DGA thinks a Seattle Liberal like Jay Inslee will help them connect with rural and red state voters, they are in deep trouble,” continued the RGA.
Given historical trends of party power shifts, Democratic strategists believe the wind is at their backs heading into 2018, but acknowledge their party is in transition.
“Democrats from the grassroots to major donors, recognize we need to rebuild the party at the state level and state elections are where the action is currently,” said DGA spokesman Jared Leopold.
Governor Inslee has listed fighting climate change and gerrymandering as priorities and areas where individual state governors can make a difference.
“I’m happy to go where the fight is, and the fight right now is in governor’s offices. We want to win them for the future of this country,” said Inslee of his new role.
Statements from State Parties:
Washington State Republican Party:
“It’s no surprise that a party in disarray would install Governor Jay Inslee as its Chairman. Inslee’s reputation in Washington State as the governor who can’t govern will not instill confidence in Democrat donors or bring back traditional Democrats who’ve left a party that no longer cares about their families, jobs, or futures. Inspired by the left-wing Seattle echo chamber of big government socialism, he is not the kind of leader the rest of America can accept. Even so, Inslee is using this platform to help him run for President in 2020,” wrote Chairman Susan Hutchison in a statement.
Washington State Democratic Party
“With 36 governors races on the ballot next year, Gov. Inslee has an incredible opportunity to lead the Democratic effort to take back governors' offices across the country. We are proud that Governor Inslee will be able to share the Washington success story and the success of other Democratic governors with the rest of the country, fight back against the gerrymandering that has poisoned our political process, and show that states can be a model for the nation for actually making progress on the big issues we face as a nation, despite President Trump’s dangerous policies coming from the other Washington,” wrote Chair Tina Podlodowski.