The live debate has ended. For more coverage, see:

What you need to know for Wednesday night:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is one of 10 Democratic presidential candidates participating in the first debate of the primary season tonight in Miami. Ten more Democrats will debate on Thursday night.
  • The two-hour debate will begin at 6 p.m. Pacific time and is televised on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. It is streaming online at,, YouTubeFacebook and Twitter.
  • Inslee will stand on the viewer’s right side of the stage, between Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney. Night one’s highest-polling candidates — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke — will be center stage.
  • Inslee, who’s staked his campaign on making the fight against climate change the nation’s top priority, will have to jockey for time on the crowded stage. He’s said he only expects about eight minutes of speaking time and wants to focus on his plans for tackling the climate crisis and his accomplishments in six-plus years as Washington governor.

Update 7:55 p.m.

Inslee closes

Speaking third, Inslee used his 45-second closing statement to talk about his grandchildren.

“I decided that on my last day on Earth, I wanted to look them in the eye and tell them I did everything humanly possible to protect them from the ravages of the climate crisis,” he said.

He gestured toward his fellow Democrats saying, “frankly I’m surprised” to be the only candidate who’s made fighting climate change his top priority.

“We can have a unified national mission, we can save ourselves, we can save our children, we can save our grandchildren and we can save life on this planet,” he said, in closing. “This is our moment.”

Last week, Inslee said he expected to speak for about eight minutes, a modest prediction for a 10-person, two-hour debate. He spoke for less than five minutes.

Update 7:45 p.m.

Geopolitical threats

Moderator Chuck Todd asked each candidate to name, in one word, the greatest geopolitical threat that the country faces.


Inslee, surprisingly, did not say climate change.

“The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump,” he said, drawing big cheers.

Several other candidates jumped in to fill the gap. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro all named climate change as the top threat facing the country.

Update 7:35 p.m.

Climate change, done

After less than seven minutes, with little back and forth, the debate has moved on from climate change. Inslee’s campaign staff is not happy:

Update 7:23 p.m.

80 minutes in, climate change

The debate is taking place in Miami, so moderator Rachel Maddow localized her question for a city threatened by climate change-induced sea level rise:

“Does your plan save Miami?” she asked Inslee.

Yes, he said, promising (to cheers) to end the Senate filibuster to pass climate legislation.

After he got skipped over during questions on guns and the Supreme Court, Inslee was the first candidate to be asked about climate change.


He touted the bills that he’s had passed in Olympia, for a clean electrical grid, among others and then stated the raison d’être for his campaign:

“The most important thing on this and the biggest decision is who’s going to make this the first priority,” Inslee said. “I am the candidate, the only one, who’s said this has to be the top priority of the United States, the organizing principle of the United States.”

Update 7:03 p.m.

Gotta pick up the pace

Inslee said he expected to get about eight minutes of talking time over the course of the two-hour debate. Halfway through, he’s under three minutes, according to the official Seattle Times stopwatch.

Moderators promised some climate change questions in the second half, so perhaps he’ll have a chance to make up lost time.

Update 6:57 p.m.

Halfway through, nothing on climate

Halfway through the debate and Inslee’s key issue, and arguably the biggest issue facing the world today, has hardly been mentioned. Moderators have yet to ask a single question about climate change.

Inslee has been pushing the Democratic National Committee to hold a debate devoted exclusively to climate change. They have refused.


On Twitter, Inslee’s spokesman showed his frustration at the first hour of questions:

Update 6:50 p.m.

Inslee finally gets to weigh in on immigration

After being left out of most of a lengthy debate on immigration policies, Inslee was the last candidate to address the issue.

“There is no reason for the detention and separation of these children,” Inslee said of asylum seekers at the border.

He said that the country should do what Washington has done, “passed a law that prevents local law enforcement from being turned into mini ICE agents.”

Update 6:30 p.m.

Inslee talks women’s health

After futilely gesturing, trying to break into the debate, Inslee got a chance to tout some of the health-care measures he’s passed in Washington, including the public health insurance option passed this year by the Legislature.

“It should not be an option in the United States of American for any insurance company to deny women coverage for the exercise of their right of choice,” he said.


He called himself the “one candidate who has actually advanced the ball,” to which Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar responded, “There are three women up here who have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose.”

Update 6:20 p.m.

Inslee ninth among the 10 candidates to answer a question

Fifteen minutes into the Democratic debate, Inslee finally got a chance to address the national TV audience, the ninth of 10 candidates to issue a de facto opening statement.

Asked how he would address income inequality, Inslee draw applause for praising unions, “the people who brought us the weekend,” which he said would lead the push for wage hikes for average Americans.

Inslee pivoted to his key issue, climate change, promising to provide the jobs “of the present and the future”

“Donald Trump is simply wrong, he says wind turbines cause cancer,” Inslee said, in what’s become a go-to campaign line. “They cause jobs.”

Shortly after, Inslee kept his hand down when candidates were asked to raise their hand if they would abolish private health insurance to implement a Medicare for all-type plan. Only Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio raised their hands.


Meanwhile, there are about 120 people at the King County Young Democrats’ debate watch party in North Seattle:

Update 5:34 p.m.

Predebate: Inslee backs impeachment inquiry

In a pre-debate interview with MSNBC’s Ari Melber, Inslee said he supports the launch of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

“I do believe that the impeachment issue has now virtually become inevitable,” Inslee said. “It is time to start an impeachment inquiry. In my view. This president has left us no choice.”

Inslee said Trump “violates the Constitution every time he turns around” and lies to the American people “on things big and small” including refusing to acknowledge the threat of climate change. “I have just had a bellyful. The Constitution is in doubt,” he said.

MSNBC made a big deal out of this, calling it a pre-debate “bomb” by Inslee. But it’s really not much of a shift. Inslee said virtually the same thing earlier this month in another MSNBC interview in which he also called impeachment “inevitable” said he’d support it.

Update, 5 p.m.

Predebate: State officials waiting on Inslee

Many state officials are watching Inslee’s campaign with a self-interested eye. Inslee has not ruled out running for a third term as governor should his presidential ambitions falter, but if he doesn’t run again, there are plenty of folks waiting to step up.


“At some point the current governor is going to have to make some progress on the national level or make some decisions,” state House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said in a phone interview Wednesday. Chopp said that Inslee’s been more engaged on state issues than he had expected throughout his presidential campaign.

The two met three weeks ago, Chopp said, to talk about “his presidential efforts.”

“I really can’t comment in terms of what Jay Inslee’s plans are,” Chopp said.

If Inslee forgoes a third run for governor, it will cause a cascade of new, statewide campaigns.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz (all Democrats) have all expressed interest in running for governor in 2020, but only if Inslee doesn’t run again.

If Ferguson forgoes a third term as attorney general, Solicitor General Noah Purcell plans to run for his boss’s office, as does state Rep. Drew Hansen. And state Sen. Christine Rolfes plans to run for public lands commissioner, but only if Franz doesn’t seek a second term.


Update: 5 p.m.

Predebate: Republicans rip Inslee ‘vanity run’

As Inslee prepared to take the debate stage, Washington Republicans attacked him for his pursuit of the White House.

“Jay Inslee is long on talk and short on action and tonight he continues his vanity run for the White House doing what he does best — grandstanding,” said state GOP Chairman Caleb Heimlich in the statement. “In an attempt to appease the far-left Democratic base on the national level, Inslee has implemented a reckless agenda here at home. Hardworking Washington taxpayers are stuck paying the bill for his presidential pipe dream.”

The state GOP has mockingly tracked Inslee’s travels and has sought to score political points off news that Inslee’s presidential campaign is costing taxpayers millions of dollars due to the State Patrol security detail which accompanies him on all out-of-state trips — whether political or official.

Seattle Times staff reporter Brian Contreras contributed to this report.