Self-described “climate candidate” Jay Inslee makes first Iowa stop

Democratic presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee began his “Climate Mission Tour” in Iowa by touring a small Cedar Rapids solar energy company.


Washigton Governor Jay Inslee stopped by Paulson Electric Co in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday March 5, 2019. Jay Inslee talked with CEO Tyler Olson about climate change and how solar pannels combat its effects. (Roman Slabach/The Daily Iowan).

Julia DiGiacomo, Politics Reporter

Four days after announcing his presidential campaign, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee spread his message of prioritizing environmentalism to Iowa.  

He kicked off his multi-state “Climate Mission Tour” by touring Paulson Electric Co.’s facility in Cedar Rapids Tuesday afternoon, where he further introduced himself as the climate candidate for president.

Inslee winded his way through the Paulson Electric Co. warehouse, office, and solar panel roof, pausing to inquire staff members about their clean energy products.

“Being here today is just a small door to open to a broader vision for the United States,” he said.

He said the U.S. needs to adopt a mission statement toward fighting climate change such as how former president John F. Kennedy declared the mission of reaching the moon in 10 years.  

“I’m the candidate who is committing to making defeating climate change and building clean energy jobs the number one, most parament duty of the United States government,” Inslee said. “I believe that because unless we do that, we will not succeed.”

Job creation through the various clean energy industries is a prominent strategy for Inslee. He said his home state of Washington leads the nation in GDP growth and wage growth in part due to its embrace of the renewable energy industry.

Inslee noted his history of working toward clean energy in Washington, where he said the state has gone from a zero to a six billion dollar wind industry under his leadership. He said he is also leading a clean energy development fund to aid small energy companies in Washington like Paulson Electric Co.

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Inslee has received $1 million in campaign contributions so far, which he said is a result of energizing Americans about environmentalism. He said he will not be accepting any corporate PAC money or contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

“We need to break the iron grip of the fossil fuel industry on our democracy,” he said.

Inslee also spoke out against tax breaks for non-renewable energy sources.

“We’re going to end those subsidies that taxpayers are now shelling out their money to the gas and coal industries,” he said. “I think it’s fundamentally wrong — all that pollution is literally killing us.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee stopped by Paulson Electric Co in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday March 5, 2019. Jay Inslee talked with CEO Tyler Olson about climate change and how solar panels combat its effects. (Roman Slabach/The Daily Iowan).

Inslee, 68, has served as Governor of Washington since 2013. Before that job, he served in the U.S. House representing Washington from 1993 to 1995 and again from 1999 to 2012.

The presidential candidate previously visited Iowa to rally support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, where he addressed the necessity of climate action.

RELATED: Photos: Washington Governor Jay Inslee in Cedar Rapids

“[Defeating climate change] has been a multi-decade passion of mine,” Inslee said. “I’ve got grandchildren and I’m dedicated to making sure they have a healthy planet to live on.”

Inslee isn’t the only governor eyeing the presidency who is visiting the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is also stopping in Cedar Rapids Tuesday night for a meet and greet at Parlor City Pub at 7 p.m. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who announced his candidacy Monday,  is making a tour of Iowa this weekend. He’ll visit Quarter Barrel Arcade and Brewery in Cedar Rapids Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Paulson Electric Co. CEO and Cedar Rapids city council member Tyler Olson led Inslee’s tour of the company. Olson, who is a former Democratic state representative, said his company contracts solar energy projects for commercial and industrial customers, who are drawn to solar because it saves them money from their energy bills in the long roan. He has seen the solar industry pick up speed recently.

“Two years ago in 2016, solar had 64 percent growth in Iowa,” Olson said. “Last year it wasn’t quite as much but it is one of the fastest growing industries in the state.