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Biography

The Hon. Jay Inslee practiced criminal law after graduating from Willamette University College of Law. He served in the Washington House of Representatives from 1989 to 1993. Inslee was elected to represent Washington’s 4th and 1st congressional districts in 1993 and 1999 respectively. Under President Bill Clinton, Inslee served as the regional director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Inslee served as the Governor of Washington from 2012 to 2016, and was elected for a second term in 2016. As governor, Inslee emphasized issues climate change, education, and drug policy. On March 1, 2019, Inslee announced his presidential candidacy for the 2020 presidential election.

 


On the Issues

AAI tracks the official and campaign-trail statements of each presidential candidate on the issues we care about most.

Click the relevant issue icon below or scroll the issues to read what Jay Inslee has said on the campaign trail. 

For our take on why these are the 12 issues that are most important to our community, read here.


DOMESTIC POLICY

Democracy Reforms

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Bigoted Speech

Hate Crime

NO BAN Act

Immigration

Surveillance

Criminal Justice Reform

FOREIGN POLICY

Iran Tensions

Israel Palestine

U.S. Presence in the Arab World

Ongoing Conflicts


DOMESTIC POLICY


Democracy Reforms  

  • "We need to take away the filibuster from Mitch McConnell. And this is something, I was the first candidate to say this. And still there's only one senator who's joining me in this regard. And this is a dirty little secret in the U.S. Senate. My opponents, the other aspirants in the race, have really sincere, powerful things they want to get done. None of which we have a chance in Hell at getting done if they continue to cling to this filibuster. There is no way that Mitch McConnell is going to let major climate-change legislation to the floor of the Senate, even if we have 59 votes. He's just not going to let it happen. People want a single-payer health care system — you think Mitch McConnell's gonna let that to the floor of the Senate as long as he's got the filibuster? Even if we had 59 votes for it. So, there's a huge failure to recognize and really stand up and be counted on progressive progress by some of the most quote "progressive candidates" in this race. How the heck can Bernie Sanders say we need a single-payer system when he continues to support the filibuster? He is supporting that which makes the single-payer system an absolute impossibility." (7/12/2019, Politico)

  • “That’s nearly 2 million voices going unheard in our state’s democratic process…Democracy is served when more people participate. I’m proud to be able to say that Washington state is doing everything we can to help make sure that every community, every voice and every vote counts.” (3/19/19, Medium) 

 

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 

  • "What would the governor of Washington say to people who wanted to punish participation in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and cut off American support for Israel?

    “It's difficult sometimes to defend the rights of someone who is saying something you disagree with, but it's the nature of freedom of speech,” Inslee said. “And I believe freedom of religion and freedom of speech are very, very important American values. I'm not a member of that movement. I know in my mind I don't agree with everything in that movement. But the freedom of speech has to be defended in the United States.” (7/30/2019, The Washington Post)

  • "So, these are a host of things we’re doing to try to right the racial disparity that has been so prevalent in our society. We’ve also now just embraced affirmative action for the first time. And I was very vocal in favor of the restoration of affirmative action in our state, so that we can right the shadow that has inflicted this country of racial disparities in so many contexts. So, we’re moving forward, and I’m glad we’re doing so." (6/11/2019, Democracy Now!)

  Securitization and Surveillance 

  • "Recent news stories have led to a lot of confusion about who can access our state’s facial recognition database. Let me be clear: No outside agencies have access to ’s database. We take seriously the responsibility to be as protective as possible of every Washingtonian’s data. Our state agencies are not immigration agencies and we will not allow agencies like ICE to unlawfully use our resources." (7/9/2019, Twitter)

Hate Crime  

  • "Along with many Americans, I object with every fiber of my being to Donald Trump’s inhumane treatment of immigrants in America. But if today’s attack was motivated by opposition to the federal government’s actions, it was totally unacceptable. Violence is not acceptable. Our democracy is strong and we are a resilient people. But it is, again, unacceptable to turn to violence. Hate crimes are on the rise, as is divisive and incendiary rhetoric. We must be better than that and find non-violent ways of pursuing the better world we want, as many groups are doing." (7/14/2019, governor.wa.gov)

  • On May 7, 2019, Gov. Inslee signed HB 1732 into law, which, "strengthens Washington’s hate crimes statutes by clearly calling out these offenses for what they are by renaming the violations “Hate Crime Offenses” in state law.The legislation also adds “gender identity or expression” to the list of protected categories, and increases the maximum civil liability for those guilty of committing hate crimes from $10,000 to $100,000. The bill also creates an advisory work group that would take a closer look to identifying the root causes of and preventing hate crimes." (5/7/2019, housedemocrats.wa.gov)
      

Criminal Justice Reform 

  • “We need reformation of our judicial system to remove the long shadow of racial disparity.” (6/19/19, The New York Times)
  • JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to ask you about another issue on which you have evolved over the years: capital punishment. You were once in favor of it, but then you placed a moratorium on the use of capital punishment in 2014, and the death penalty has since been abolished in your state. Can you talk about the evolution of yourself on this issue?

    GOVJAY INSLEE: Yeah. I think that what I’ve seen is an increasing awareness of the racial disparity in our criminal justice system. And that is one of the reasons I eliminated the death penalty, put a moratorium on the death penalty by executive order. And so, what I’ve seen is—and it’s one of the reasons I’ve offered pardons to thousands of people who had marijuana convictions. We have now legalized marijuana. But we’ve seen the racial disparity that has come from the drug war. And we need to root that out. It’s one of the reasons that we passed the best police accountability laws that hold police accountable when there’s undue violence. That’s one of the reasons why we now are doing something that I’m really proud of, which is diverting juveniles into the school system, out of the criminal justice system. We’ve got way too many black young men who are shunted into the criminal justice system at age of 14, 15, 16, that we want in the educational system, that might need some mental health issues, as well. (6/11/2019, Democracy Now!)

     

Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use 

  • “Donald Trump is a coward and a racist. We need to make sure he’s nothing but a blip in history.” (7/14/19, Twitter)   
  • AMY GOODMAN: Would you call President Trump a racist for his Muslim ban, the one that you were the first governor to challenge?

    GOVJAY INSLEE: You know, it’s painful to think in those terms, but I don’t know what other conclusion you can make, and I made it a long time ago. You need to understand the depths of depravity of this individual. This is a person whose entire political existence he owes to a racial lie, when he said that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. That is the entire way he developed a base in the Republican Party. That lie is the only reason he has a political existence. So I don’t know what other word you can attach, because he has followed this up every day trying to divide the United States, continuing to pull out his dog whistle out of the Oval Office closet and blow it every single day. So, it’s painful to say that, but I just have to reach that conclusion. (6/11/2019, Democracy Now!)


Immigration 

  • Martelle: The second question: You mentioned migration. And we’ve already seen climate change as one of the factors pushing people from Central America. What would you do broadly about dealing with the Central American migration flow?

    Inslee: One, I would try to reduce the incentive for people to leave their homes, and that would include some of the obvious things of trying to do economic development in that region, which Trump has canceled. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. If we want people to survive in their homes, it would help to have a meaningful economy. So I would do the things that would increase our assistance to help those economies thrive. No. 2: I would try to deal with the climate crisis, ‘cause these are — many of these folks are climate refugees today.

    Martelle: In the Guatemalan highlands, especially.

    Inslee: In the Guatemalan highlands they literally are starving to death. They can’t grow a crop. This is a story across the world; this is not unique to Guatemala.

    Healey: Right, but you can’t make it rain. They’ve had a drought there for more than a year.

    Inslee: Correct. And droughts are going to become much more frequent over time. So, what percentage are climate refugees? I don’t know. But there’s some percentage that are climate refugees, and it’ll get worse over time. No. 3: I will develop an asylum system that is not based on inhumanity and terrorism of young children. And that’s pretty much what Donald Trump’s strategy has been based on. This is an intentional infliction of distress he has tried to create. And I think we should follow the law and have a humane system on the border. That means to have an asylum system that is much more rapid in the decision. I don’t believe that the majority of these people have to be packed in detention centers. We found a 99% compliance rate with allowing people to be on their own recognizance pending their hearing. I think that is tenable thing to do. It was 99% compliance during the Obama administration on their program. I would certainly do comprehensive immigration reform, that goes without saying. And I would apply what we are doing for Dreamers [in Washington state], which is just… I mean my blood just gets boiling to think putting these Dreamers on the chopping block and using them as a tool right now. It makes me so angry. These kids — I shouldn’t say kids — you know, they’re in our colleges, and I was one of the first to get them in-state tuition and financial aid and they’re just so inspiring, and the fact they’re being victimized it drives me nuts. So that’s what I would do. (7/24/2019, Los Angeles Times)

  • “He has tried to threaten me, saying, ‘Well we are going to send our refugees to Washington’ and my response was, ‘Send them. We like refugees, we welcome immigrants in our state. He has decided to bring a reign of terror for one reason and that’s to try to restore his failing presidency. I got news for him, this inhumanity is going to end his presidency.” (7/12/2019, Roll Call)

  • In May, Inslee signed a law forbidding local and state law enforcement from asking citizens about their immigration status, complying with ICE requests to detain immigrants at their facilities, or notifying ICE when an individual was released.(7/12/2019, Roll Call)

  • JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted ask you about refugees. We’re seeing many people coming up from Central America. Some people believe many of them are climate refugees, as well, but also fleeing gang violence and deep poverty there. You were one of the leaders among governors, obviously, in opposing President Trump’s efforts to not only have the Muslim ban, but also on immigration issues. Talk about what you’ve been doing in Washington.

    GOVJAY INSLEE: Well, we’ve been standing up to Donald Trump. I’ve now sued him and defeated him 21 times in a row, with Bob Ferguson, our excellent attorney general, at the helm. We need to stand up for democracy, in all its measures and value system. Your logo has a Statue of Liberty on it. And I believe the light from that statue should continue to shine across the United States. It is an ancient thing, light, we should guard jealously. And I did that, and I’m proud I was the first governor to stand up against his Muslim ban. I was also the first person to say we should accept Syrian refugees, even before, I think, that that issue came up.

    And the reason is, is that this is not only a matter of compassion of the United States. We are a compassionate nation, taking in the refugees and those, you know, fleeing, the huddled masses yearning to be free. This is something that’s deeply ingrained in our hearts in the United States. But it is also an economic development issue. Look, we’ve grown our economy because we have geniuses who have come from nowhere and now created businesses in my state. The DREAMers who are in my state are some of the most ambitious, creative, going to be productive businesspeople and doctors. That’s why I’m proud of being the first governor to make sure the DREAMers get access to college education. So, I believe that the current situation is unfortunate—

    AMY GOODMAN: What about what Governor Newsom is doing? It looks like he’s about to sign this bill that will increase the access of undocumented immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25, something like that—around 90,000 of them will get healthcare.

    GOVJAY INSLEE: So, we are taking steps in that direction. We started with our youthful folks in that situation, and we make sure that we have ERs open to them. But first they have to have access to not be put in cells and have the children separated from parents, like Donald Trump is doing.

    And as you indicated, what is so maddening about this is that the president refuses to go to the source of this problem, which many of these people are climate refugees today because they simply can’t be subsistence farmers. Because the climate has changed so much, you can’t grow crops, particularly at higher elevations in Central America. So they’re starving to death. And the president refuses to recognize the reality of climate change. He’s going to allow it to become worse, because he just doesn’t give a hang or is too scientifically illiterate. Each are fatal.

    Now, secondarily, it makes sense for us to make investments there, so we don’t have to make them on the border, to try to improve the economies of those regions, so people can stay in the place of their homeland. And those are smart investments to make. But instead, he wants bumper stickers and confrontation. There’s a better way. (6/11/2019, Democracy Now!)

  • “We have to boost our ability to process people seeking asylum. We do have increasing numbers of people and we do have to increase the capability to process those and to figure out those who really legitimately are entitled to asylum and those who are not. It takes additional agents and immigration judges. Third, we got to not waste our money on a wall which is a vanity project. The republicans themselves agree it is a ridiculous waste of money. Fourth, we need a comprehensive immigration reform. We’ve got over 11 million people here who are working in our industries, who are our neighbors, who are paying taxes, who are coaching our kids in soccer. Those folks and our country deserve a comprehensive immigration reform. The last thing that I’ll say is, we need to protect our dreamers. I was one of the first governors who made sure that our dreamers get access to college education because these young people are some of the most inspiring, aspirational new physicians and lawyers and business people. To use them as a bargaining chip as Donald Trump has done, that cruelty has got to end.” (4/11/19, CBS News) 

  • There is no reason for the detention and separation of these children. They should be released pending their hearings and they should have a hearing and the law should be followed. That is what should happen and we should do what we are doing in Washington state. I am proud that we have passed a law that prevents local law enforcement from being turned into mini ICE agents. I am proud to have been the first governor to stand up against Donald Trump’s heinous Muslim band. I am proud to be a person who has not only talk to about dreamers but being one of the first to make sure that they get a college education so that they can realize their dreams. These are some of the most inspirational people in our state and I will leave you with this thought if you want to know what I think. Donald Trump the other day tried to threaten me, he thought it was a threat to tell me that he would send refugees in Washington state if we passed the law that I passed. And I told him, that’s on a threat at all. We welcome refugees into our state. We recognize diversity is a strength. This is how we built America. That tradition is going to continue if I’m president.” (6/26/19, First Democratic Debate, citing transcript from The New York Times) 


 

NO BAN Act 

  • “Donald Trump’s Muslim ban was wrong in January 2017 and it’s wrong now. When I’m president, I will put an end to the ban — and work to prevent future blanket entry bans, too.” (6/17/2019, Twitter)  

  • Goldberg: When you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, what would that include at the border, ultimately? I mean, once we are treating people humanely, would you also tighten up the border? Would there be more security? Do we have the right to keep people out?

    Inslee: Yes. I think we should have a secure border that is humane in its treatment of people at the border. That’s the bottom line. I think that Americans have an expectation that we have borders. And I believe that. But I also believe we ought to increase the amount of refugees the United States admits by several factors. And I believe that’s a fundamental aspect of the American experience, to be a place of refuge. That’s why I was the first Governor, I wrote an op-ed in another unnamed newspaper, years ago, even before Trump, saying we should accept Syrian refugees in the Syrian conflict. That’s why I was the first to stand up against the Muslim ban. And now I propose an increase in the number of refugees. What was it? 120 [percent]? 140? I can’t remember the number I had chosen was…. (7/24/2019, Los Angeles Times)

  • “This is a tremendous victory for the State of Washington. Thank you to AG Ferguson and his team for making the case that no person – not even the president – is above the law....There is still more to do. The fight isn’t yet won. But we should feel heartened by today’s victory and more resolute than ever that we are fighting on the right side of history.” (1/25/2017, governor.wa.gov)

  • The following is an excerpt of Governor Inslee's remarks in the hours following the announcement of  Executive Order 13769, Muslim Ban 1.0:
    "The manifest and unjustifiable chaos and cruelty caused by President Trump's executive order is now on full display here at Sea-Tac airport.The illegality and unconstitutionality and the religious discrimination of his executive order is now on full display at Seattle International airport. And the gross incompetence and ineffectiveness of this action, without notice, to local officials whose job it is to run airports, is on full display here at Sea-Tac airport. First I'm going to address the gross cruelty of this. These are people who have left war-torn regions, chaos, mass poverty, many of whom have relatives here who are citizens of the United States, who have crossed the abyss from disaster to hope, who are ready and landed in the home and land of the brave, who are allowed to get on airplanes to cross the oceans, to a life of hope, who are now torn apart from their relatives who are waiting at the end of the gate?

    What type of inhumane attitude allows that to happen in this nation? That is what is going on. We have a family here today who I've just met, a citizen of the United States, the Donald Trump administration allowed her husband to get on a plane in Vienna, waiting to get in the arms of his wife, but didn’t let him go the six feet across this gate to embrace his wife. What type of cruel action based on demagoguery and fear does that to people,  to anybody? I won't stand. Secondly this is a grossly unconstitutional and highly probably illegal act. It is religious discrimination in its barest and most obvious form. Not only did it target just Muslim countries, it is clearly religiously discriminatory, when the President himself said,  'we're going to say, Muslims are at the bottom of the barrel, and other religions are at the top. 'We have never done this, in over two centuries of American history, and it is on display here at Sea-Tac. We're drawing the line right here at Sea-Tac. And I hope people will do it at airports across the country." (1/27-8/2017, Washington Post, Puget Sound Business Journal)

     


FOREIGN POLICY 


Israel/Palestine 

  • INSLEE: I’m a longtime supporter of a democratic Israel, and I believe we have to have a two-state solution, and I would work with all parties to make sure we have that, of justice for people in Palestine, and democracy in Israel, and that depends on a two-state solution, and I would work with everyone to achieve that.

    NYT: and what about whether Israel meets international standards of human rights?

    INSLEE: I think all countries can improve in all respects. Certainly our ability to foster a future for the Palestinian people needs all of us to up our game. I do not believe the present government of Israel has followed policies, and those policies can improve to encourage the ability and maintain the access in the future to a two-state solution, and we all need to be dedicated to that. (06/19/19, The New York Times) 

  • On relocating the embassy:I don’t have an answer to that... I will do whatever is necessary to keep the possibility alive for a two-state solution and I believe that is the ultimate goal along with the preservation for the security of a democratic Israel and I will pursue whatever is appropriate to those goals.” (7/15/19, Jewish Insider) 

Iran Tensions 

  • "Now call me old-fashioned, but I remember when America used to honor its treaties, too, and not have rogue guys going out by tweet tearing up our agreements. We had an agreement with Iran, and he just tore it up willy-nilly." (7/24/2019, Los Angeles Times)
  • MCFADDEN: We are at the Council on Foreign Relations. Iran. The president has indicated he’d be willing to sit down and talk to the Iranians without any preconditions. Good idea? 

    INSLEE: I think, as Churchill said, it’s better to jaw-jaw than war-war. And I think that that applies in this circumstance. I think we have been weakened in that the president has weakened our ability to grow alliances. This is true in Iran. I think it’s true, to some degree, on our trade issues. And we need to reestablish the power of alliances in this regard. And we have to, dare I say it, listen to our intelligence professionals. Look, I talk to these intelligence professionals and say we send briefings, it’s like the black hole. They go in, they never come out. This is a guy who doesn’t even listen to the taxpayer-generated intelligence that we’re generating. This is a dangerous situation. 

    Now, I am a little sensitive about this because I was one of the most vocal and persistent opponents of the Iraq War. I believed then that the intelligence was being manipulated. I tried to warn the country about this. And I saw a disaster. I do not intend to allow that movie to be rerun. (6/5/2019, Council on Foreign Relations)

  • The source of tension with Iran is the cause of Donald Trump tearing up the valid, enforceable agreement that the international community had confirmed that Iran was following, not creating a nuclear state in Iran. For reasons of his own base, he decided to tear up a perfectly good agreement. This is the source of this tension and he continues to be in the flames. As a person who fought in the Iraq war, I do not want to see that movie again. The same people gave us the Iran war in his cabinet. We need to keep the pressure on to prevent Iran from being a nuclear state and having a treaty to do that. We have one and we need to go back to international alliances and lead the world. (6/25/19, MSNBC)
  • “It is clear who breached the agreement — it was Donald Trump. Donald Trump tore up the agreement, not Iran... I see no reason why that cannot be re-instituted. Iran has not indicated in any way that they want to breach the agreement; it is Donald Trump who has created this crisis, it was Donald Trump who made a giant misjudgment, and it’s Donald Trump who’s hired the same people in his administration that led to [the Iraq] War.” (7/11/19, Jewish Insider) 

 

U.S. Presence in the Arab World 

  • "He shouldn't have the keys to a golf cart. No, I have zero confidence in Donald Trump. I have huge concerns about his ability to be within 1,000 yards of any nuclear weapon or command and control system. His instability is terrifying to me. He has weakened the United States' national security every way he can by removing the ability to bring alliances to bear on North Korea or Iran or on climate change or in any direct — Venezuela or anything else. He has severely weakened our ability to be effective in protecting international security because he has eliminated virtually every alliance, to have a working relationship with every alliance we have. We are stronger in an alliance against North Korea than singularly. We are stronger in an alliance involving Iran than singularly. And he has made us a single actor. So, he has weakened our ability significantly." (7/12/2019, Politico)
  • "So I am calling for a new approach to foreign relations, one you might call a global climate mobilization, because nothing else is up to the task that faces this. I believe that defeating climate change must become the organizing principle of our entire foreign policy thought process. It cannot be think as one of the things on our to-do list; it has to be the organizing principle for the next administration of the United States. And I would intend to make it job one not the first day, but every day, because I’m convinced that if it’s not job one it won’t get done. We all know how much political capital it takes to get something done in D.C., and we have to make it the top priority. And I am the candidate—so far the only candidate for president of the United States—who has basically said this, that it has to be the top priority of our effort. So I have put forward—proposed twenty-seven separate policy initiatives that you might think of as a full-court press to address this issue and build the international economy. And it only starts—and I want to make this point—it only starts with making sure that we do not leave the Paris Agreement.... And we start this foreign policy—and I think this is an important point—I start my foreign policy right here in good old America, because if we are going to lead the nation we cannot lead without leading right here domestically." (6/5/2019, Council on Foreign Relations)


 

Ongoing Conflicts  

  • “We saw George Bush try to whip up the flames to get his war in Iraq, and it was in part based on some of the sentiment that leads us to be here today,” he said. “I was a very vocal opponent against the war in Iraq, and I believe now we need to be very very adamant to not allow another president beating the drums of war to fan the flames of hatred and lead in another unnecessary war with Iran.” (7/30/2019, The Washington Post)
  • AMY GOODMAN: How do you take on the military-industrial complex, or do you see that as something that you feel you should be doing? And your stance in foreign policy, in the wars, in the longest war the U.S. has ever engaged in, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq?

    GOVJAY INSLEE: I was one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq War and the Bush administration, and I fought long and hard against that war. And I would continue the principled position that we need alliances rather than making continued mistakes of thinking we can revamp whole countries and cultures in our own image in a short period of time. So, I think I’ve gotten experience to show I’ve been able to stand up against when the war drums are beating.(6/11/2019, Democracy Now!