Inslee to jump into governor's race next week
Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee will announce his 2012 bid for governor in Seattle early next week, a source with direct knowledge of his plans confirmed Thursday.
Seattle Times political reporter
Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee will launch his 2012 bid for governor next week, setting up what promises to be a nationally watched matchup against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Inslee, 60, who has represented Washington's 1st Congressional District since 1999, will make his announcement Monday morning in Seattle, his campaign said Thursday night. He will follow up with a Monday event in the Yakima area, which he previously represented in Congress and the state Legislature.
On Tuesday, Inslee will make stops in Tacoma, Vancouver and Spokane.
After working as an attorney and small-town prosecutor, he was elected to the state Legislature in 1988. In 1992, Inslee won the state's 4th Congressional District seat. He lost re-election two years later in a Republican landslide.
After moving to Bainbridge Island, Inslee won his current congressional seat in 1998. His district includes suburbs in North King and South Snohomish counties.
As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Inslee has pushed for the U.S. to develop cleaner sources of energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and combat global warming.
Inslee has run for governor once before, losing in the 1996 Democratic primary.
McKenna, the two-term attorney general, announced his candidacy this month with a call for a leaner state government and a renewed budget focus on schools.
The anticipated Inslee-McKenna clash already has been rated among the most competitive 2012 gubernatorial races in the country by several national political observers.
"He is the automatic front-runner for the Democrats at this point," state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said. "He's very popular with the party and a proven vote-getter on both sides of the mountains."
The way for Inslee's announcement was cleared recently when Gov. Chris Gregoire, a fellow Democrat, said she would not seek a third term.
A potential wild card in the race is State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat who has not ruled out his own run. Sonntag said he'll make his plans known soon. "I've got to make my best decision based on our factors regardless of who else is in or isn't in," he said Thursday.
Inslee already has signaled one line of attack on McKenna, strongly criticizing the attorney general's participation in a multistate lawsuit that seeks to overturn the landmark health-care overhaul approved by Congress last year. McKenna says a key provision of the law is an unconstitutional expansion of federal authority: its requirement that most people buy private health insurance or pay a fine.
But Inslee has called McKenna's involvement a political gesture pandering to the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
"You are either with the people in this state to protect their rights to get insurance, or you are with the tea party," Inslee said in a February interview.
On Thursday, as news of his pending announcement emerged, Inslee pivoted on another issue that could distinguish him from McKenna. His political director, Joby Shimomura, told The Stranger, a Seattle alternative newspaper, that Inslee now supports legalizing gay marriage.
Inslee has supported domestic partnerships for gay couples, but had not clearly stated his support for gay marriage.
McKenna has said he supports domestic partnerships, but he opposes gay marriage.
Inslee's entry into the race was greeted with a jeer from the Republican Governors Association.
"Jay Inslee failed the last time he ran for governor and he's failed to bring meaningful reform to Washington, D.C., as a congressman. Voters won't trust him to hold state government accountable and fix the broken system in Olympia," spokesman Mike Schrimpf said in a statement.
While a Republican has not been elected governor here since John Spellman in 1980, the GOP sees McKenna as a strong contender to break that streak. In addition to winning two statewide elections as attorney general, McKenna served for several years on the Metropolitan King County Council.
"It should be a good race," said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report. "You have a pretty established Republican who seems to be popular with voters and a Democrat who seems to be able to clear the field."
Inslee was born in Seattle and graduated from Ingraham High School. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Washington and his law degree from Willamette University.
Inslee's entry into the governor's race, meanwhile, means his congressional seat will be up for grabs.
Already, former Democratic state Rep. Laura Ruderman has filed to run for the 1st District seat. And state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, is expected to file next week. Republican James Watkins, who lost to Inslee last year, has also filed to run again.
Staff reporter Andrew Garber contributed to this story.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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