Inslee was scheduled to depart Thursday night for a weeklong political trip in his role trying to elect fellow Democrats as chair of the Democratic Governors Association. He'll will spend Election Day and the day after in Washington, D.C.
Gov. Jay Inslee has a lot at stake in the Nov. 6 election in Washington state, with voters weighing a carbon-fee initiative he has aggressively championed and Democrats looking to increase their majorities in the state Legislature.
But Inslee won’t be around for the results. He was scheduled to depart Thursday night for a weeklong political trip that will take him east to Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C., in his role trying to elect fellow Democrats as chair of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).
Inslee, who has attracted speculation about a possible 2020 presidential bid, will campaign on Friday and Saturday for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, who is facing a fierce election battle with Republican Ron DeSantis, the DGA announced Thursday evening.
He’ll head to Georgia on Sunday and Monday to stump for Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is trying to become the nation’s first black female governor in a close race with Republican Brian Kemp. Oprah Winfrey campaigned for Adams on Thursday and former President Barack Obama was scheduled to headline a rally with her Friday.
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Inslee will spend Election Day and the day after in Washington, D.C., for “media/DGA responsibilities,” said his political spokesman, Jamal Raad. He is scheduled to return to Washington state next Thursday morning, according to the governor’s office.
The accelerated national travel schedule has fueled speculation Inslee may be making connections and laying the groundwork in important early caucus and primary states for a presidential bid. Inslee also has grabbed national media attention for his denunciations of President Trump.
Inslee has said he’s not ruling out anything for 2020, including a possible run for a third term as governor. A longtime clean-energy evangelist, he also has emphasized that Democrats need a 2020 presidential candidate who will make defeating climate change a top priority.
Asked whether Inslee might make an announcement on his political future on the trip, Raad replied in a text message, “Not that I’m aware of!”
Raad said Inslee is campaigning in Florida and Georgia “to help ensure he has more partners in the states who will fight back against Trump’s chaos coming out of D.C.” He noted that Inslee has campaigned for Washington’s carbon-fee measure, Initiative 1631, “since the day it was filed” and has attended events for Democratic legislative candidates.
As of late August, Inslee had spent all or portions of 49 days on DGA-related travel out of state, The Seattle Times and Northwest News Network reported earlier this year.
His travel pace has remained intense since then, most recently with a second visit to Iowa and a Midwest swing to campaign with candidates in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Republicans have criticized Inslee for his travel, saying he’s more interested in national politics than governing the state. “He’s been somebody that would rather grandstand on national issues,” state GOP Chairman Caleb Heimlich said in August.
But Inslee has defended his work trying to elect Democratic governors as important, arguing they could help reverse years of Republican gerrymandering that has given the GOP outsized influence in Congress. In an interview in August, Inslee added that he stays in touch with his staff through “the mysteries of the cellphone.”
Democrats hold governors’ offices in just 16 states, compared with 33 for Republicans. Polls have shown Democrats are likely to pick up several of those states in the November election.
If that holds true, Inslee could have some bragging rights — as well as some grateful newly elected governors — as he weighs his own plans for 2020.