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Several Democratic state party chairs and DNC members to demand climate debate, Inslee says

Washington Governor Jay Inslee says he has some allies in his push for a climate debate, despite the opposition of the national Democratic Party.

Inslee told CBS News in an impromptu interview Thursday that at least nine Democratic state party chairmen and around 50 Democratic National Committee members are planning to submit a formal resolution demanding a climate change debate to DNC executive leaders latest this month.

Inslee also said that over 200,000 people have signed a petition supporting a climate debate.

The governor said he is in Washington, D.C., to meet with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led group supporting the Green New Deal, and added he has no plans to meet with the DNC while in town.

He also interpreted DNC chairman Tom Perez's insinuation this week that a climate debate would only benefit one person as an indication that he is the leader on climate policy in the crowded Democratic field. 

"If we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign's signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we've had? How do we say no to other candidates in the race who may request debates focused on an issue they've made central to their own campaigns?" Perez wrote

Yesterday, Jay Inslee told CBS News, "There are 14 other candidates who have said they want a debate on this. Is the party going to blacklist that 14?" He added, "We're going to hope the party will change its mind. Otherwise, we will pursue other options we can make after talking to other candidates."

Two of those candidates, former Vice President Joe BIden and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, signed on to the idea of holding a climate-specific debate in the past week. 

"I'm glad he is calling for it," O'Rourke said in an interview with CBS News last week, "I think it makes a lot of sense. I'd love to find a way that the DNC can incorporate this idea into their debate process."

Climate change activists are continuing to put public pressure on candidates as Greenpeace this week hoisted a large "2020 Climate Scorecard" outside the window of a Biden campaign event. Inslee had the best grade, followed by Sen. Cory Booker and then Sen. Bernie Sanders.  

For now, however, Inslee said he is focusing on the first Democratic presidential debate later this month in June. The governor said his debate prep is "going well" but added that it's "challenging" condensing his more than 200-page book into a 60-second pitch.

Nicole Sganga contributed to this story. 

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