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Jay Inslee ends presidential bid, officially seeking 3rd term as governor

Jay Inslee will run for a third term as Washington state's governor after dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

SEATTLE — Washington Governor Jay Inslee confirmed on Thursday that he is dropping out of the 2020 presidential race. 

In an interview with Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, Inslee said, "It's become clear that I'm not going to be carrying the ball. I'm not going to be the president, so I'm withdrawing tonight from the race."

Following a visit to Planned Parenthood in Seattle Thursday morning, Inslee told KING 5's Chris Daniels he was only interested in the job of president of the United States after he was asked if he would accept a Cabinet position within a Democratic administration. 

Inslee said he made the decision to drop from the race "a day or so" before making the announcement Wednesday night. It became clear, Inslee said, that he wasn't going to meet the threshold for the next debate. 

Inslee then sent a statement out to supporters saying, "I know you agree that our mission to defeat climate change must continue to be central to our national discussion...But I've concluded that my role in that effort will not be as a candidate to be the next president of the United States."

Inslee said Thursday he intends to seek a third term as governor of Washington state. In an email, Inslee said that while it was an honor to run for president, he wants to continue his work leading the state.

"Our great success as a state these last few years gives me confidence that we can continue to lead the nation in so many ways. Our multiple accomplishments have paved the way for much to come in the next term," Inslee said.

Governors in Washington state aren't subject to term limits, though most haven't served more than two terms. The last three-term governor in Washington was Republican Gov. Dan Evans, who served from 1965 until 1977.

Following Insee’s announcement, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he supported Inslee’s reelection and that he would pursue another term as attorney general.

Hilary Franz said Thursday that she also supported Inslee for reelection and announced she is seeking reelection as Commissioner of Public Lands.

“Now, more than ever, we need leaders who will build bridges and bring people together to lift up our state," Franz said in a statement.

Ferguson, Franz, and King County Executive Dow Constantine had all previously signaled they would run for governor if Inslee didn’t.

A few Republicans have already announced plans to run for governor, including Phil Fortunato, a state senator, and Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, in eastern Washington. A Republican has not occupied the governor's office in more than three decades.

Earlier this week, Inslee announced he had recently hit one of the markers — 130,000 unique donors. But he had yet to reach 2% in any poll and would have needed to hit that level of support in four qualifying polls.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee hits donor threshold for next presidential debate

Inslee, 68, became the third Democrat to end his presidential bid after U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California pulled out of the primary last month followed by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last week.

While Inslee had qualified for the first two presidential debates this summer, he struggled to gain traction in the crowded Democratic field and was falling short of the requirements needed to appear on two high-profile stages next month: the third DNC debate in Houston and a CNN town hall focused on climate change, Inslee's key issue.

Inslee is a former congressman and served as Democratic Governors Association chairman in 2018 when the party flipped seven Republican-held gubernatorial seats. He kicked off his campaign in March in Seattle, standing in front of a blue-and-green campaign logo with an arc of the Earth, declaring climate change the nation's most pressing issue. 

RELATED: Who is running for president in 2020?

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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