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Inslee says DNC rejected his call for climate debate

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Jay Inslee has been spoiling for a debate with his primary opponents on climate change, the central issue of his presidential campaign, but on Wednesday, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) rejected his pleas for for a debate focused solely on climate.  

In a statement released by his campaign, the Washington governor expressed his disappointment with the decision and accused the DNC of "silencing the voices of Democratic activists."

"Today, my team received a call from the Democratic National Committee letting us know that they will not host a climate debate," Inslee wrote. "Further, they explained that if we participated in anyone else's climate debate, we will not be invited to future debates."

However, while the DNC frowns upon candidate participation in debates that are not sanctioned by the party, it does not prohibit candidates from participating in forums and town halls.

Inslee, who released his "Global Climate Mobilization" plan Wednesday morning, had told CBS News earlier in the day that he hoped the party would have a debate "solely dedicated to that issue." Throughout his  campaign, the governor has expressed concern about the lack of attention the issue received during the 2016 presidential debates.

Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the DNC, agrees that the issue should have been more prominent in the 2016 election but told CBS News, "While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue."

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley shares Inslee's frustration with the DNC, tweeting, "That call is way wrong. Climate chaos is humanity's biggest challenge. Either host a climate debate or get out of the way and let other groups do so!"

Fellow Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke also disagreed with the DNC's decision. O'Rourke, who has previously expressed interest in having a debate solely focused on climate change with Inslee, told CBS News' host Elaine Quijano in an interview Wednesday that Democrats "deserved" a debate dedicated to climate.

"Having a debate solely focused on it (climate change) makes a lot of sense." O'Rourke told Quijano. "I'd love to find a way that the DNC can incorporate this idea into their debate process."

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