Washington governor Jay Inslee never managed the viral moment he needed to break out of the background of the crowded Democratic primary race, which he exited on August 21 after hovering around 1% in the polls. But unlike other ex-candidates who quietly dropped off the radar, the climate change activist has continued to shape the national conversation. If anything, Inslee in absentia is more powerful than ever. Multiple candidates have adopted portions of his ambitious plan to limit planet-warming emissions, and of the 11 candidates who have qualified for the next Democratic debate, eight— Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke—have either consulted with Inslee at a principle or staff level.
Earlier this month, Vanity Fair’s Hive spoke with Governor Inslee about climate change, the remaining presidential field, and what another four years of Donald Trump would mean for the environment. The following interview has been edited for brevity.
Vanity Fair: Did you watch all seven hours of the CNN climate change town hall earlier this month?
Jay Inslee: A good part of it. I had some gubernatorial responsibilities so I didn’t get all of it, but I was very pleased at the emphasis that the candidates showed. I think it was really a demonstration, both of an emerging recognition of the urgency of this, and I’m proud to be of the party that is actually offering solutions.