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What will Jay Inslee's legacy be after 12 years as governor?

caption: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a crowd gathered for a pro-choice rally and press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Kerry Park in Seattle.
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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks to a crowd gathered for a pro-choice rally and press conference on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Kerry Park in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Jay Inslee has decided that three terms are enough for one governor.

He shared in a statement Monday morning that he will not be running for reelection in 2024. With Inslee stepping off the stage, the door is open for new Democratic candidates to step up.

KUOW Politics reporter David Hyde joined Soundside to talk about the announcement.

For the first time since 2012, Gov. Inslee will not be on the ballot for governor of the state of Washington. Were you surprised by this?

No, this was widely expected. People in a position to know told me they would be shocked if the governor decided to run again. And of course, we have a couple of prominent Democrats thinking about running in 2024. In his statement, he says that he's ready to "Pass the Torch."

RELATED: Read the breaking news story on Inslee's announcement, which includes his statement.

Inslee's statement today included a long list of accomplishments that his administration is proud to have achieved. Are there any that stand out in terms of what he's been able to do in office?

He puts climate legislation right at the top of this list in the statement that we read. And there are a number of significant accomplishments here in Washington state. We're supposed to be 100% clean power by 2045, thanks to the Clean Energy Transformation Act. And remember, climate change was also his signature issue when he ran for president in 2020. And it's been his passion for many, many years.

There's a lot of stuff on this list, his moratorium on the death penalty, back in 2014. And then this year, the death penalty was abolished. He just signed that this last month. And there are other issues: fighting the Trump administration, abortion, gun control, a number of things.

When Inslee signed these three new pieces of gun control legislation last week, including the 10-day waiting period for gun purchases in Washington state, there was a ban on the sale of military style assault weapons like the AR-15, and the third piece of legislation made it easier for the state to sue gun manufacturers and dealers if the weapons are used in a crime. I was really struck that with this assault weapons ban in particular, there was a full circle kind of connection to Gov. Inslee's earlier political career. David, can you talk to us about that?

Yeah, that's a great one to bring up. Of course, as you know, Inslee served in Congress twice. The first time back in the early '90s. He was representing a Central Washington district, the only Democrat to do that. And in 1994, ends up voting for the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. That's also the year that he loses his seat. And he later says, well, that's why, because I voted for that assault weapons ban. And of course, guns are such a polarizing issue.

Now that Federal Assault Weapons Ban later expires in 2004, and there hasn't been another one since. So, now it comes full circle with Inslee signing this state assault weapons ban. We're the 10th state to do that. And I think the other question now, though, is in terms of legacy, will it hold up with this U.S. Supreme Court? There are three challenges already by gun rights groups and a Supreme Court decision in 2021 that appears to have set a really high bar for this type of gun regulation. So, we'll we'll see what happens, but definitely for Inslee, he comes full circle.

Gov. Inslee, of course, says he's still got a lot to do. He's not going to be leaving office until the new governor is elected and inaugurated in the beginning of 2025. But now that we have this moment to kind of reflect here, what do you think the Gov. Inslee era will most be remembered for?

I think it's impossible to know, because we don't really know what the priorities of future generations are going to be. But if I had to guess, I'm going to say climate change and climate change policy, because the governor has made that the signature issue of his career. I would say for members of the press, though, it's going to be his football metaphors — 100% Inslee, former quarterback now heading into the overtime of his career.

You can listen to the entire conversation through the audio above.

This article originally stated that Gov. Jay Inslee aims to transition Washington to 100% clean energy by 2024. It has been corrected to state the actual goal of 2045.

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