AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — The parade of Democratic presidential hopefuls continued Sunday at the South by Southwest festival, where discussions with Washington Governor Jay Inslee and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro highlighted the strategies primary candidates are taking to try to set themselves apart in a crowded field.
Inslee, who bills himself as “the climate candidate,” explained why he believes that climate change should be the nation’s top priority, while Castro touched briefly upon several hot-button issues including income inequality, immigration and racial justice.
Inslee, who announced his candidacy March 1, was first up in the “Conversations about America’s Future” series Sunday, speaking with Vox reporter Jane Coaston.
He said he’s running for president because climate change has to be the “first and foremost and paramount duty of the next administration.”
“We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, but we are the last generation that can do something about it,” Inslee said.
He added that beating President Trump is his “highest purpose.”
“When that chaos-producing, division-spreading narcissist is removed from the White House to perhaps a more secured facility, we will have removed a climate denier from the White House, and we will spread the message across the world that the United States is open for business to defeat climate change.”
Inslee said he shares with other Democratic candidates the core beliefs of tolerance, justice, individual liberty and equality.
However, “We don’t share a willingness to set a priority,” he said. He considers climate change an “all-encompassing” problem that must be addressed to solve health issues, national security threats and the economic devastation of natural disasters.
He has several proposals, some of which he’s already working on in Washington, to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.
His state Senate this month passed a bill that requires utilities to obtain 100 percent of their electricity from carbon-free energy sources and aims to eliminate coal from the grid by 2025.
Inslee said that eliminating super-pollutants, pushing zero-emission vehicles, requiring fuel providers to provide cleaner fuels, and helping businesses “retrofit so they don’t use so much energy” will help to achieve the same level of reduction as a carbon tax — which has failed to pass several times in his state.
“The investment side and the regulatory side is where you really get the bang for your buck,” he said.
To get any climate change-combating measures through Congress, though, Inslee said the filibuster has got to go.
“We are not going to get climate change legislation until we rid ourselves of that antebellum historical artifact called the filibuster,” Inslee said. “We have to take the filibuster away from Mitch McConnell.”
Castro, who followed Inslee in the series and spoke with Huffington Post editor in chief Lydia Polgreen, was comparatively measured on the filibuster issue, saying he would “rather not” eliminate the filibuster, but would push for that if it is the only way to get universal health care through Congress.
Castro said he believes the country should be bold in combating climate change and that he was proud of his twin brother, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, who co-sponsored Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. However, he did not go into any detail about the steps he might take as president in order to address climate change.
The former Cabinet secretary was more forthcoming on the issue of reparations for injustices, and took a jab at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ position on the issue.
“He has said that he doesn’t believe that the answer is to write a check,” Castro said.
“If we compensate people under the Constitution because we take their property, why wouldn't you compensate people who actually were property, sanctioned by the state, at least their descendants?” he asked.
Castro said that as president, he would create a national commission to investigate the best way to address reparations.
He suggested taking a studied approach to universal basic income, and that he believes it needs to be tested on a smaller scale before applying it nationally.
Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, said he would spend money on “smart border enforcement,” investing in technology and personnel at the ports of entry, noting that the largest fentanyl bust ever was made at a border checkpoint in Nogales, Arizona in January.
“We need to exercise compassion and humanity toward the 10 to 11 million undocumented immigrants who are here,” Castro said.
One of Castro’s primary policy initiatives is universal pre-K, but that, along with his desire for free four-year colleges, were only mentioned in passing during his conversation Sunday.
Castro said he is running because he believes he has the vision and experience to make the U.S. the “smartest, healthiest, fairest and most prosperous nation on earth.”
“I’m running for president because I feel tremendously blessed with the opportunity that I’ve had in my life to reach my dreams, and I want to make sure that no matter who you are or where you come from or what your background is that you can also reach your dreams,” he said.
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