In a letter shared with HuffPost, the Washington governor, who has centered his White House bid entirely on global warming, implored his 2020 rivals to rally behind his call for the committee to either schedule a debate on climate change ― or let someone else do it.
The DNC’s so-called “exclusivity clause,” which became a source of conflict during the 2016 presidential primary, bars candidates who take part in unsanctioned debates from participating in subsequent official ones. Inslee called it a “gag rule.”
“Today, I urge all of you to join me in demanding the DNC allow a climate debate, and eliminate its gag rule that punishes candidates for participating in an outside climate debate,” he wrote.
The DNC said the rule “was first implemented in 2016 to ensure that the debate schedule was reasonable and left time for candidates to campaign.”
“The DNC communicated the rules to every campaign at their initial briefing, including in March for the Inslee campaign, and no one objected,” Xochitl Hinojosa, a DNC spokeswoman, told HuffPost by email. “The DNC has also been very clear that candidates can participate in as many forums as they’d like.”
It took 82 minutes for NBC News moderators to ask a single question about climate change, though Inslee and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made unsolicited remarks about the issue earlier in the evening.
When hosts Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow finally gave the topic airtime, they asked questions that climate experts roundly criticized as badly framed and uninformed. After about seven minutes of meandering discussion from just four candidates, the moderators moved on.
“At last night’s first debate, the DNC and its media partners had the opportunity to show that they were listening and willing to help educate voters about our candidates’ views and policy plans on climate change,” Inslee wrote. “They failed.”
DNC Chairman Tom Perez rejected Inslee’s request for a climate debate earlier this month, arguing in a Medium post that scheduling such an event would unfairly favor the governor’s candidacy. But he held firm even as at least 14 other contenders, including Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand backed Inslee’s call for a debate. An online petition for a climate debate had nearly 223,000 signatures by Thursday evening.
Democratic-leaning voters overwhelmingly support a climate debate. Roughly 64% back the idea, with 42% strongly in support and 22% somewhat in favor, according to an online YouGov survey commissioned by the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress earlier this month.
“We are at a tipping point,” he wrote. “And it is up to our party to ensure that the next president takes bold climate action on the scope and scale necessary to meet the defining challenge of our time.”
This story was updated to include comment from the DNC.