OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign is about to miss two important deadlines that could dictate the fate of his 2020 run.
While Inslee’s campaign announced Monday that it reached the 130,000-donor threshold required to participate in the September DNC debate, he has not reached 2% support in any qualifying polls. He would need four such polls to meet the threshold.
As a result, Inslee will miss the August 21 deadline to qualify for CNN’s upcoming climate change town hall. He is also likely to miss the August 28 deadline to qualify for the next DNC debate.
Meanwhile, political insiders in Washington state are waiting to hear whether Inslee will leave the 2020 trail to mount a re-election campaign for governor. Inslee has declined to rule out a third term since launching his presidential bid in March.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz have all indicated they would be interested in running for governor in 2020. None, however, are expected to challenge Inslee should he decide he wants to keep his job.
The situation creates an awkward predicament for Inslee’s political allies. Do they launch a gubernatorial campaign now, or wait until Inslee has made up his mind and lose valuable fundraising time?
While common sense would dictate that Inslee should leave the presidential field if he fails to qualify for upcoming debates, it’s possible the so-called “climate candidate” holds out until the MSNBC/Georgetown climate forum being held on September 19 and 20. All declared candidates are invited to the forum, which would give Inslee the climate platform he’s been demanding.
“Our campaign has experienced a surge of support since the July debates, because voters are responding to our clear call for climate action,” Inslee said in a statement Monday, announcing his donor milestone. “Voters are demanding real action on climate, not platitudes, half-measures, or empty promises. I will make defeating climate change our nation’s top priority.”
While the climate forum would be a good stage for Inslee to sing his 2020 swan song, pushing off his decision for an extra month may be a costly delay for fellow Democrats back here at home pondering a move to the governor’s mansion.
Law prohibits state officials soliciting or accepting contributions during what’s called the "legislative session freeze period." It means Ferguson and Franz would see their fundraising hampered during, and 30 days prior, to the upcoming legislative session. The freeze period begins December 14 and concludes at the end of the regular session, or after any special sessions.
Meanwhile, two Republican candidates for governor have emerged – State Senator Phil Fortunato and Republic Police Chief Loren Culp.
A phone call and email sent to Inslee’s campaign staff seeking comment Monday and Tuesday were not returned.