NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee became the latest potential 2020 candidate to visit Nevada on Saturday, telling Democratic activists in North Las Vegas he feels kinship with them and that progressive policies are "the best economic development theory in the United States."
Inslee, Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen and U.S. Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada all spoke at a summit organized by the progressive group Battle Born Progress. Activists in attendance helped canvass, register voters and get out the vote for Nevada Democrats last November and could be a key force for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.
"These are the groups that these candidates need to know," Battle Born Executive Director Annette Magnus said.
Inslee told The Associated Press in an interview that he hasn't yet decided if he'll run, but he's speaking to potential staff and meeting Democrats around the country as he weighs the decision.
On stage Saturday morning, Inslee pitched his record tackling climate change, gun control, raising the minimum wage and expanding paid family leave — all issues that Nevada progressives are eager to work on as they head into a 2019 legislative session with a Democrat-controlled Legislature and governor's mansion.
Inslee, a former congressman, spoke about his 1994 vote for the assault weapons ban that cost him re-election to the U.S. House. He also recounted his visit to Nevada last year where he and Aaron Ford, now the state's Democratic attorney general, advocated for stricter gun control measures.
Inslee also campaigned last year for Nevada's new Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak — one of seven governor races that flipped for Democrats in November under Inslee's chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association.
He told activists Tuesday that he thinks legalized marijuana, which has been legalized for adults in Washington, Nevada and a handful of other states, has brought economic benefits to his state. Inslee said he expects legalization to eventually spread around the country as the legalization of same-sex marriage did.
His primary focus, Inslee said, is on climate change. "It is the thing that, if we don't win this battle, kind of nothing else matters," he said.
Rosen also spoke about tackling climate change, along with raising the minimum wage, passing comprehensive immigration reform and protecting health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.
She told the AP she won't endorse a presidential candidate until after Nevada's presidential caucus next year.
Lee, a freshman Democrat who represents Nevada's southernmost areas, spoke about being sworn into office with a wave of other Democrats amid the partial government shutdown, which became the longest in U.S. history Saturday.
"This government shutdown is so indicative of the divisiveness that drove many people in my class to run for office in the first place," Lee said.
She credited the activists for their work helping to elect Nevada Democrats and said their work for 2020 "begins right here, right now."
In an interview with the AP, Lee declined to say whether she's looking forward to any particular Democrat getting into the 2020 presidential race, saying she's instead focused on her job.
"We'll see how it shakes out," Lee said of the Democratic field.