Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the 2020 Democratic candidate who has tied his entire platform to the issue of climate change, may not make the stage for a CNN town hall on the climate crisis scheduled for next month.
Inslee has not yet achieved the 2 percent polling threshold required by CNN to attend the town hall and has until Wednesday to do so. His likely absence is notable because aside from his wide-reaching climate platform, Inslee has led candidates in pressuring the Democratic National Committee to host a presidential debate focused on climate change. The party has so far been resistant to the effort.
In June, the DNC not only rejected Inslee’s calls for a separate climate debate, but also reportedly told the candidate that if he participated in one, he would not be invited to future DNC-sanctioned debates. At the time, the candidate called the decision “deeply disappointing” and said the committee was “silencing the voices of Democratic activists.”
Following pressure from environmental activists and Inslee, however, the DNC is now slated to vote on a climate-only debate at a Thursday meeting. Though the promise of a vote is a positive sign for activists, advocates for the debate such as the youth-led Sunrise Movement also worry that a resolution recently introduced by DNC Chair Tom Perez and up for consideration at the meeting is an effort to “kill the climate debate through backroom dealing.”
While the party continues to hash out the conflict, the CNN town hall was viewed as a DNC-sanctioned forum for tackling climate change, which has become a top-line issue for many voters and candidates.
Though climate change got little attention during the 2016 Democratic primary and even less in the general election, a swell of attention from young activists and the Democratic base has forced the party to consider how the issue fits within its official platform. Inslee has been among the most vocal 2020 candidates in pushing for a more nuanced discussion and approach to climate change, as many contenders for the presidency sketch out detailed climate plans.
Inslee has introduced a four-part climate platform that calls for policies including 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, and a three-pronged climate corps that includes clean energy job training. Other candidates have proposed similar initiatives with varying degrees of ambition, like the net-zero emissions target for 2050 backed by former Vice President Joe Biden and the $400 billion in federal research and development that Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes be spent on clean energy in the coming 10 years.
Inslee's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his prospects for attending the town hall, which will feature candidates answering questions in individual, back-to-back segments. Inslee has, however, reached the donor threshold for the DNC's fall debates.
Ten other candidates — former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Yang and Biden — have already secured the polling numbers to qualify to attend the CNN event.
Read Greentech Media’s energy and climate guide to 2020 Democratic candidates here.
This story has been updated with new information regarding the candidates who have qualified for the town hall.