Washington Governor Jay Inslee has decided against seeking a fourth term and will be leaving the state’s highest office in January 2025 when his current term expires, his office announced today in a statement circulated to its press list.
“Serving the people as governor of Washington state has been my greatest honor,” said Inslee. “During a decade of dynamic change, we’ve made Washington a beacon for progress for the nation. I’m ready to pass the torch.”
Inslee is only the second governor in Washington history to serve three consecutive terms, after the legendary Republican Dan Evans, who is also the oldest living former governor still with us. (Evans has outlived four successors: Dixy Lee Ray, John Spellman, Booth Gardner, and Mike Lowry.)
First elected in 2012, Inslee has led Washington through some turbulent times, including the Rodney Tom error, which began about when his first term did in 2012, the Trump error, which began when his second term did in 2017, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit as he was running for a third term in 2020.
Rodney Tom, a Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican again, was an early thorn in Inslee’s side, and conspired with Republicans and another turncoat named Tim Sheldon to flip the Senate to Republican control just as Inslee was preparing to take office. However, Tom retired in 2014, and a 2018 comeback bid ended in an embarrassing failure. Sheldon stuck around for a couple more terms, but he’s gone now, too. Inslee has outlasted both of them.
The governor’s list of accomplishments is long, and his team provided a selection of those accomplishments in today’s statement, highlighting what they see as the biggest wins Inslee has delivered for the people of the State of Washington.
Notably not included in the list is Washington’s new capital gains tax on the wealthy, which we’d put at the top. Inslee first called for such a tax to be levied at the end of 2014 as he laid out his proposed budget for the 2015 Legislature, which had a Democratic House and Republican Senate.
It took six years for the Legislature to answer the call, but it finally did in 2021, after Democrats had built robust majorities in each chamber, with the passage of ESSB 5096. The tax has withstood ballot measure threats and a legal challenge, and is now being collected. It is the biggest progressive tax reform measure in recent history — sorely needed and fiercely opposed by Republicans.
The revenue from the tax is devoted to the Education Legacy Trust and allocated to early childhood education and childcare. However, Washington’s public schools remain underfunded. Many school districts are grappling with big budget deficits right now and imposing harmful cuts due to a lack of support from the state.
On economic security, the Governor requested and signed into law a paid family and medical leave program, which even earned Republican support. It has been a huge success. The governor and the Democratic Legislature also finally got the Working Families Tax Credit funded — an important victory that both improves economic security and balances our tax code a bit more.
Pretty much all of the progress Washington has made on gun safety has come under Inslee. After a series of three Alliance for Gun Responsibility initiatives passed at the ballot (in 2014, 2016, and 2018), the Legislature belatedly began taking up the cause. It has now sent Inslee many gun safety bills to sign.
Washington has banned bump stocks, ghost guns, high capacity magazines, and most recently assault weapons. It has prohibited the carrying of firearms at the state Capitol and the carrying of firearms at local government meetings and election sites. A ten-day waiting period is slated to go into effect soon, and gun manufacturers will be required to exercise reasonable controls in their businesses under a new accountability law that just got signed.
On human rights, Governor Inslee placed a moratorium on the death penalty early on during his tenure and more recently signed a bill getting rid of the death penalty after the Supreme Court has struck its use down as unconstitutional and converted all death sentences to life sentences.
On reproductive justice, the state has stood firm against the Supreme Court’s horrific Dobbs decision. Governor Inslee has vocally and emphatically defended access to abortion care and signed laws to protect patients and clinics, especially from punitive draconian laws passed in Republican-controlled states.
On climate justice, the Governor has a record second to none in the country. Inslee has signed into law a huge number of bills to put Washington on the path to a clean energy economy, including the Climate Commitment Act and a one hundred percent clean electricity grid bill which our own Gael Tarleton led on.
And, very importantly, Inslee has been unafraid to stand up to dishonest initiative promoter Tim Eyman. His Democratic predecessors Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire had each capitulated to Eyman, urging the Legislature to reinstate harmful tax-slashing initiatives after the Supreme Court had struck them down.
Inslee didn’t capitulate — not after I‑1366 passed in 2016 or after I‑1976 passed in 2019. He stood up for Washington’s common wealth. As a consequence, billions of dollars in funding for essential public services were saved, and Washington turned away from repeating some of the mistakes of the early 2000s.
Inslee has also signed into law bills to rid our ballots of Eyman’s push polls and ensure that any future right wing tax cutting initiatives that qualify for the ballot will appear with a disclosure that explains what they would defund if passed.
Inslee prevailed over three Republicans to win the state’s top office three times, each by a margin greater than his previous victory. He defeated Rob McKenna in 2012, Bill Bryant in 2016, and Loren Culp in 2020. Those victories coincided with a minor political realignment in the state that has turned Washington into a strong Democratic trifecta, with Republicans out of power and often out of the picture.
Politically, during Inslee’s governorship, Democrats have:
- Maintained a majority in the state House of Representatives
- Won a majority in the Washington State Senate after years of trying, thanks to Northwest Progressive Foundation boardmember Manka Dhingra’s special election victory, and then expanded that majority
- Lost and regained the office of State Treasurer
- Gained the office of Secretary of State
- Flipped two seats Democratic in the U.S. House (in the 8th CD and 3rd CD)
- Reelected both U.S. Senators (Maria Cantwell in 2018, Patty Murray last year)
Before becoming governor, Inslee was a United States Representative from the 1st (1999–2012) and 4th Congressional Districts (1993–1995). Before that, he was a state legislator, serving in the Washington State House from 1989–1993.
NPI congratulates Governor Inslee for a great run as Washington State’s chief executive. We look forward to working with him to get even more great policy signed into law next year as he wraps up this chapter of his public service.
The governor’s full announcement is below:
Governor Jay Inslee announced today he does not plan to seek a fourth term. Inslee was most recently re-elected in 2020, making him only the second Washington state governor to serve three consecutive terms.
“Serving the people as governor of Washington state has been my greatest honor. During a decade of dynamic change, we’ve made Washington a beacon for progress for the nation. I’m ready to pass the torch.
“Our last decade of Washington’s storied history is one of growth and innovation. I am proud to have played a role in our state’s leadership on so many fronts. We’ve passed the nation’s best climate policies, the most successful family leave benefits, the best college scholarship programs, a more fair legal justice system, and the most protective actions against gun violence. We’ve shown that diversity is a strength worth fighting for. This has been ten years of dynamic success.
“As governor, I have seen my role as inspiring our state ever forward and ever higher. I’m gratified to be able to say that this approach has worked to improve Washingtonians lives in many ways and many places.
“Now is the time to intensely focus on all we can accomplish in the next year and a half, and I intend to do just that. I look forward to continued partnership with legislators and community leaders to address Washington’s homelessness crisis, speed our efforts to expand behavioral health services, continue our fight against climate change, and continue making Washington a beacon of progress for all.”
Highlighted achievements since 2013:
- Passing nation-leading climate policies to drive down emissions and invest more equitably in overburdened communities.
- Establishing the state’s Clean Energy Fund to promote development and deployment of clean energy technologies.
- Passing the Clean Energy Transformation Act to achieve 100% clean power by 2045; Climate Commitment Act to establish a cap-and invest program with strong equity provisions; clean buildings policies to reduce emissions in homes and offices; and clean fuels and clean transportation policies to electrify the state’s ferries and promote electric vehicles.
- Establishing Washington state as a sub-national leader on climate by co-founding the U.S. Climate Alliance, Ocean Acidification Alliance, and America is All In, and helping lead the Pacific Coast Collaborative and Under2 Coalition.
Improving equity across Washington’s legal justice system.
- Prioritizing more diverse judicial appointments.
- Establishing a Marijuana Justice Initiative to clear misdemeanor conviction records.
- Placing a moratorium on Washington’s death penalty – a position that was ultimately affirmed by the state Supreme Court due to its unequal and racially biased application, and subsequently struck from state law.
- Establishing a statewide effort to improve reentry services for people transitioning from incarceration into the community.
- Promoting policies that consistently rank Washington among the best states for business and for workers, thanks to the state’s strong economy and workforce as well as programs for working families such as paid family leave, a high minimum wage, and the new Working Families Tax Credit.
- Taking decisive measures to protect the health and safety of Washingtonians during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates in the country.
- Fully funding Washington’s K‑12 education system for the first time in over a decade as determined by the McCleary case, and expanding financial aid to make Washington’s program among the most generous in the nation.
- Enacting the nation’s most generous paid family and medical leave program, offering up to 16 weeks of paid leave for every working Washingtonian.
- Providing more affordable health care options to all Washingtonians by making Washington one of the 10 leading states for fully implementing the Affordable Care Act and expanding eligibility for Medicaid. Inslee continues to promote policies to strengthen access to health care such as requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions, creating a low-cost “public option” style insurance plan known as Cascade Care, and capping insulin costs to $35 per month.
- Helping to establish Washington as a leader in gun violence prevention by banning bump stocks, high capacity magazines, “ghost guns,” and assault weapons sales, as well as requiring safety training and a 10-day waiting period prior to purchase and enhancing accountability for manufacturers and retailers.
- Pushing back on Republican efforts to roll back abortion rights and gender-affirming care by strengthening legal protections for providers and patients and expanding access.
- Promoting diversity and belonging as one of Washington’s strengths by welcoming refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine; holding the first-ever raising of the Juneteenth and Pride flags at the Capitol; and establishing a new statewide Office of Equity, as well as a new LGBTQ Commission and Women’s Commission.
Again, our congratulations and thanks to Governor Inslee. We have enjoyed working with the Governor and appreciate his steadfast leadership.