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Born and raised in Seattle, Inslee received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Washington in 1973 and a J.D. from Willamette University College of Law in Oregon three years later. After working in private law for more than a decade, he successfully ran for a seat in the Washington House of Representatives, where he served for four years until his successful bid for Congress in 1992. Inslee represented the state's 4th Congressional district for one term until his reelection bid was thwarted during the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994. During the following years, he unsuccessfully ran for governor and served as a regional Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) director under President Clinton. Inslee ran for Congress again in 1998 and defeated a Republican incumbent in Washington's 1st Congressional district, which he went on to represent for nearly 12 years. During his congressional tenure, the Washington lawmaker was a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and an early proponent of federal initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases and the American economy's reliance on fossil fuels. Inslee left Congress in 2012 to launch his ultimately successful bid to be governor in Washington, defeating the state's Republican attorney general in the general election. After winning reelection in November 2016 -- the same time Mr. Trump unexpectedly won the presidency -- Inslee declared that "Washington was, is and will always be a beacon for progressive values." During his second term, Inslee has been a frequent cable news critic of the president and, with the help of the state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, has challenged some of the Trump administration's policies, including the travel ban, through high-profile lawsuits.
Inslee will make climate change the top issue of his 2020 campaign, hoping to draw sharp contrasts with the environmental policies of Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt on human-induced climate change, and even called it a Chinese hoax. He has been an ardent backer of sweeping federal action to mitigate the irreparable harm climate change is having on the global environment since his days in Congress. With most 2020 Democrats throwing their support for the audacious "Green New Deal" proposal introduced by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Inslee's focus on climate change has the potential to gain traction among Democratic primary voters and prompt fellow contenders to discuss the issue even more during the nomination process. Inslee is also likely on the campaign trail to tout the growing economy in his deep-blue state, his role in the passage of a net neutrality bill and what he called "the best paid family leave and one of the best minimum wages" in the country.
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