Washington Gov. Inslee joins Democratic presidential field
By BILL BARROW and RACHEL LA CORTE
Friday, March 1
SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, mixing calls for combating climate change and highlights of his liberal record with an aggressive critique of President Donald Trump.
The 68-year-old governor is launching his bid Friday in Seattle, following recent visits to the first primary state of New Hampshire and the early caucus state of Nevada.
“We went to the moon and created technologies that have changed the world — our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change,” Inslee says in a video announcement ahead of a public announcement later Friday in Seattle.
Inslee is the first governor to join a Democratic primary that has been dominated by senators. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also are eyeing presidential campaigns.
It will not be easy for Inslee to garner attention with six prominent senators — Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — already running. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke also are expected to make highly anticipated 2020 announcements in the coming weeks.
Inslee acknowledges his underdog status but says his emphasis on combating climate change will set him apart.
“Climate change is a unifying issue,” Inslee told The Associated Press in a recent interview, calling it a moral necessity and an economic opportunity.
He promises substantial investment in clean energy sources that reduce American dependence on fossil fuels.
“This issue is connected to virtually every other value system and thing we want to do in our communities,” he said, mentioning environmental justice, infrastructure, clean energy, health care and national security.
Inslee argues that no presidential candidate has hinged a campaign as heavily on climate and environmental policy as he will. He may have a larger opening since billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer has passed on a national campaign, opting instead to continue his advocacy for impeaching and removing Trump from office. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent millions of dollars on climate issues, may run.
Inslee has not specifically endorsed the Green New Deal introduced by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, though he said last month that he was “thrilled that this … resolution has been brought forward” as a way to push for action.
He has argued separately for an issue-by-issue approach that adds up to sweeping change. He generally avoids promising specific reductions of carbon emissions under an absolute timeframe. The Green New Deal targets 2030 for the U.S. to become net carbon neutral.
Despite his emphasis on climate policy, Inslee says he’s not a one-issue candidate. A former congressman, he pitches his breadth of personal and political experiences as ideal to bridge political and cultural divides among the Democratic base and the broader electorate.
Inslee is a white male baby boomer who was a clean-cut star athlete and honors student in the turbulent 1960s, when he met his high school sweetheart, Trudi. She is now his wife of 46 years. That puts Inslee closer to the septuagenarian Biden than to the young rock-star-style candidates like O’Rourke or Booker, both still in their 40s.
Inslee has nonetheless governed Washington as an unabashed liberal, promoting clean energy, gay rights, abortion rights, environmental preservation, tighter gun restrictions and more spending for education and job training. Most recently, he’s called for a state-based public option health insurance plan in Washington that he calls a “step toward universal health care.”
Republicans have not embraced him, with the state GOP recently deriding his “extreme environmental agenda” and pointing to its price tag.
Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler has quipped that Inslee’s policies “may be geared toward Iowa more than Washington.”
Inslee grew up in the Seattle area, with his mother working as a sales clerk and his father as a biology teacher and basketball coach in public schools. He started his legal and political career in small-town central Washington, where he won a state legislative post and, for one term, a congressional seat before being knocked out in the GOP sweep of 1994. He later returned to Congress representing a metro-Seattle district for 12 years before resigning to run for and win the governor’s office in 2012.
Inslee raised his profile serving as Democratic Governors Association chairman in 2018; Democrats picked up seven governor’s offices, and Inslee became a familiar guest to cable news audiences, using the opportunity to lambaste Trump on such issues as immigration and ethics.
“During the past two years, we’ve been challenged by federal actions that appeal more to our darker natures than our better angels,” Inslee said in his January address of the Washington Legislature. “But we know that’s not who we are.”
Inslee says he doesn’t necessarily buy into the usual political wisdom about lanes in a primary: liberals vs. moderates, older candidates vs. younger, white men vs. the others. But recent polling suggests at least some wisdom for trying to become the climate change candidate.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from December found that self-identified liberal Democrats see the environment as a critical issue: 49 percent named it among their top priorities, compared with 29 percent of conservative and moderate Democrats. Sixteen percent of liberal and moderate Republicans and just 3 percent of conservative Republicans mentioned the environment as a major problem.
In an open-ended question, 24 percent of all adults queried named environmental issues and climate change among the top five priorities for the government to work on in 2019. That compares with 18 percent who mentioned the issue as a priority for 2018.
Still, the environment continues to trail behind the economy, health care and immigration as an issue that Americans see as important for the government to address this year.
Next week, Inslee plans to visit Iowa, which starts the nominating process with the first caucus, with trips to Nevada and California to follow.
Barrow reported from Atlanta and Hanover, New Hampshire. Associated Press associate polling director Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.
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Opinion: Governors Are Laying the Groundwork for Single-Payer
By Sally C. Pipes
Democrats can’t stop talking about single-payer health care. Most of those vying for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020 have declared their support for the idea, which first rose to national prominence during the 2016 Democratic primary that pitted Hillary Clinton against longtime single-payer champion Bernie Sanders.
In February, Sanders — the pied piper of single-payer — declared his candidacy for the White House. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are lining up behind bills that would expand or totally reinvent Medicare. But single-payer isn’t going anywhere unless Democrats reclaim the White House and Senate and keep the House in 2020.
Some blue-state governors aren’t willing to wait that long. Connecticut, Nevada, Illinois and Minnesota are looking at schemes that would allow anyone to buy into Medicaid. Washington governor Jay Inslee and his allies in the state legislature plan to introduce a bill that would create a state-sponsored health plan, or public option, to compete against private insurers.
Medicaid buy-ins and public options are little more than stepping stones to a complete government takeover of the health care system. They’d gradually put private insurers out of business. In the end, Americans would be left with low-quality government-sponsored insurance that forces them to pay higher taxes and endure long waits for treatment.
Most officials pushing public options and Medicaid buy-ins claim they just want to give consumers an additional choice in the marketplace. Governor Inslee insists his plan would “ensure consumers in every part of the state have an option for high-quality, affordable coverage.”
But that state-sponsored option could soon be the only option. Private insurers have to charge enough in premiums and co-pays to cover their expenses and turn a profit. Government plans, by contrast, can operate at a loss — potentially in perpetuity. As a result, they could offer artificially low premiums.
Consumers will understandably opt for those cheap plans. Eventually, private insurers will be unable to attract customers in sufficient numbers — and will be forced out of the market.
A one-state public option isn’t good enough for Colorado governor Jared Polis. He has called for western states to band together and create a “multi-state consortium to offer a universal, single-payer option out west.” He promises such a system would “provide coverage to more people at a lower cost and better quality of care.”
He’s delusional. Single-payer would be extremely expensive. In 2016, Colorado voters considered a ballot referendum that would have established a statewide single-payer system. Eighty percent of voters rejected the plan, which would have required huge new taxes to cover its $38 billion annual price tag — more than the entire state budget.
Spending vast sums of taxpayer money on single-payer wouldn’t result in better care. Consider Canada’s system of socialized medicine. Health care spending there nearly doubled between 2004 and 2018. Yet treatment delays have grown worse. Patients waited a median of 19.8 weeks for treatment from a specialist after getting a referral from a general practitioner last year — more than double the median wait in 1993.
Canadians have little choice but to endure these waits. Private insurance is banned for anything deemed “medically necessary” under Canadian law.
So all Canadians have health insurance. But that doesn’t mean they can actually get care. Some Canadian leaders have recognized this disconnect. In a 2006 court case challenging Canada’s monopoly on health insurance, then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Madam Beverley McLachlin said, “Access to a waiting list is not access to health care.”
Canadians’ only recourse for faster care is to leave the country. Thousands of Canadians travel abroad each year to receive the timely, quality care their single-payer system doesn’t provide.
Americans living in blue states might have to do the same if their leaders follow through on their plans to put the government fully in charge of their health care. Medicaid buy-ins and public options may sound like reasonable, incremental ways to expand access to health coverage. But they’ll pave the way to the end of private insurance.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Rep. Joaquin Castro ‘seriously’ considering Texas Senate run
By PAUL J. WEBER
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas confirmed Friday that he will “seriously consider” running for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent John Cornyn, raising the remarkable possibility of charging into one of 2020’s biggest races at the same time his twin brother is running for president.
Julian Castro, the former Obama Cabinet member and San Antonio mayor, was among the first this year to launch a presidential campaign in what is becoming an increasingly crowded field of Democratic hopefuls.
His run for the White House disappointed some Democrats who wanted him to stay in Texas, where Beto O’Rourke’s narrow loss against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz showed that a generation of GOP dominance in the state is suddenly fragile. But now Joaquin Castro, who passed on challenging Cruz in 2018, is thinking about picking up where O’Rourke left off.
“Congressman Castro will seriously consider running for Senate in 2020,” campaign adviser Matthew Jones said in a statement. “Right now, he’s focused on protecting Texans – and all Americans – from the most consequential challenge to our constitutional separation of powers that we have seen in a generation.”
The statement did not indicate when Castro would make a decision, but at the moment, Cornyn has no clear rivals.
O’Rourke has signaled he’s not in the Senate mix as he promises to announce soon whether he will run for president in 2020. On Friday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee became the latest Democrat to jump into the presidential race, but O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden remain the biggest potential contenders still on the sidelines.
Cornyn, 67, has been in the Senate since 2003 and is among its most powerful figures. He had been the No. 2 Republican in the chamber before being term-limited out of that leadership role this year and has never faced a serious re-election challenge.
But O’Rourke, who came within three points of Cruz in 2018, changed overnight what Democrats thought was possible in Texas, where they haven’t won a statewide office in 25 years. At the same time, Cornyn is a different incumbent from Cruz, who was widely derided by leadership of both parties for insurgent, trouble-making ways in the Senate.
Joaquin Castro, 44, is chairman of his brother’s presidential campaign. But his own profile is also rising in Congress, where he is chairman of the Hispanic Caucus and sponsored a measure passed Tuesday that would stymie President Donald Trump’s bid for billions of extra dollars for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The Castros started their political careers around similar times but took different paths. Joaquin Castro made a slow climb to Congress after a decade in the state legislature, while Julian Castro quickly became one of Democrats’ most prominent Hispanic up-and-comers after being elected San Antonio mayor at age 34.
“I think he’d beat him. My brother would win,” Julian Castro told The Associated Press during a campaign stop in Nevada on Thursday. “There are a lot of Texans that clearly have problems with the way that he has represented the state. Most recently, refusing to stand up to Trump even though a lot of land is going to get taken, a lot of Texas landowners’ property is going to get taken if there’s a wall.”
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The 68-year-old is announcing his bid Friday, March 1, 2019, in Seattle after recent travels to two of the four early-nominating states. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)