Democratic Party Says No to Primary Debate on Climate

Democratic presidential candidate Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, second from right, speaks during a Columbia Climate Strike rally at Columbia University in New York on March 15, 2019. Inslee, as part of his pledge to make combating climate change the top national priority, is calling for the nation’s entire electrical grid and all new vehicles and buildings to be carbon pollution free by 2030. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(CN) – Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee has refused his request to host a debate focused on climate change.

Considered a long-shot among would-be contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination next year, Inslee quoted the party as saying it will bar him from future primary debates if he participates in a climate debate hosted by a different organization.

Party communications director Xochitl Hinojosa confirmed there will be no debate focused solely on climate change. Hinojosa defended the decision by saying the committee does not plan to focus on any single subject for any of its 12 planned debates.

“Our goal is to provide a platform for candidates to have a vigorous discussion on ideas and solutions on the many issues that voters care about, including the economy, climate change, and health care,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single-issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters.”

Hinojosa did not address whether the party would bar Inslee from future debates if he pursued a climate change forum with another organization, and party spokesman Brandon Gassaway did not respond to a question on the topic.

In a statement, Inslee called the decision “deeply disappointing.”

“The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time,” Inslee said. “Democratic voters say that climate change is their top issue; the Democratic National Committee must listen to the grassroots of the party.”

Inslee began lobbying the DNC in April to hold a debate focused solely on climate as one of the 12 it will hold to help narrow the field of democratic candidates for president. Senator Elizabeth Warren and other democratic candidates joined him, as did groups like the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Team.

“The climate crisis merits a full discussion of our plans, not a short exchange of talking points,” Inslee said. “The next president must make defeating this crisis the top priority of the nation.”

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