In this 2019 photo, then-Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee speaks during the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
CNN  — 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday that he will not seek a fourth term in 2024, saying in a statement that “I’m ready to pass the torch.”

Inslee, who ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, didn’t give any indication of his plans once he leaves office, saying only that “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.”

In a statement announcing his decision, Inslee highlighted his record on issues such as climate change, childcare, criminal justice reform and gun violence. Climate change was also a point of emphasis for Inslee during his short-lived 2020 presidential campaign. 

The second governor to serve three consecutive terms in Washington history, Inslee was first elected in 2012, winning a narrow race against Rob McKenna, then the state’s attorney general. Inslee increased his share of the vote in both consecutive reelection campaigns, winning by more than 10 points in 2020.

Inslee made climate change central to his agenda. He signed several legislative packages seeking to address the issue, including efforts to establish emission caps. Inslee also enacted a paid leave program of up to 16 weeks, among the most generous in the nation at the time, and he steered his state through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inslee’s decision creates an open gubernatorial race in a state that has been reliably Democratic in recent cycles – though Republicans have worked to make gains in the state, with the 2022 matchup between Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray and GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley registering as the most expensive congressional race in state history. Murray went on to defeat Smiley by 15 points.

Potential successors on the Democratic side include Bob Ferguson, the state’s Democratic attorney general, who said he is “seriously considering” a bid, and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, who said “a lot of people are asking me to run.”

Meanwhile, former GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has also indicated interest in a run. The longtime 3rd District representative lost a competitive primary in 2022 to a Trump-backed challenger, Joe Kent, after her vote to impeach Donald Trump provoked the former president’s ire.