NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Why it makes sense that Jay Inslee will likely seek a third term as Governor of Washington

Tomor­row, after return­ing to the Ever­green State from the east coast, Jay Inslee is expect­ed to announce that he will seek a third term as Wash­ing­ton’s Gov­er­nor next year, hav­ing pulled the plug on his cli­mate-focused pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

If Inslee makes his 2020 guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign offi­cial, he will be the first incum­bent chief exec­u­tive in almost fifty years to seek a third term.

Wash­ing­ton’s last three term gov­er­nor was Repub­li­can Daniel J. Evans, a true Cas­ca­di­an liv­ing leg­end if ever there was one. Evans head­ed the state’s exec­u­tive depart­ment for twelve years, for 1965 to 1977. Work­ing with the Leg­is­la­ture, Evans twice secured House and Sen­ate pas­sage of a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment that would have explic­it­ly per­mit­ted Wash­ing­ton to levy an income tax.

Vot­ers reject­ed both pro­pos­als despite remain­ing fond of Evans. He went on to serve as Sen­a­tor Hen­ry M. “Scoop” Jack­son’s suc­ces­sor in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate for six years. Appoint­ed to the post by his suc­ces­sor, Gov­er­nor John Spell­man, he was retained by the vot­ers in a 1983 spe­cial elec­tion, defeat­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent Mike Lowry, who would lat­er go on to serve as Gov­er­nor in the 1990s.

Jay Inslee is now hop­ing to repli­cate Evans’ feat of win­ning three suc­ces­sive guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tions. To pull it off, he’ll have to uni­fy the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in sup­port of his can­di­da­cy (which ought not to be too dif­fi­cult) and dis­patch who­ev­er ends up being his Repub­li­can rival — which he was able to do in 2012 when he defeat­ed Rob McKen­na and again in 2016 when he beat Bill Bryant.

Peo­ple close to Inslee have told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press that he’s seek­ing a third term. Offi­cial con­fir­ma­tion is expect­ed tomor­row; Inslee him­self told MSNBC’s Rachel Mad­dow he will make a state­ment tomor­row about his next steps, upon hav­ing returned to Wash­ing­ton from New York.

Inslee has already reached out to the three Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed lead­ers who have been open­ly mulling guber­na­to­r­i­al bids for 2020 to give them each a heads up about his plans: King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz, and Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son.

Both Con­stan­tine and Franz con­firmed to The Seat­tle Times that Inslee had spo­ken with them; the news­pa­per was unable to reach Fer­gu­son. Appro­pri­ate­ly, nei­ther Con­stan­tine nor Franz would com­ment about what Inslee’s plans are.

But it’s pret­ty evi­dent that Inslee is going for a third term.

And it’s a sen­si­ble, defen­si­ble move for a host of rea­sons.

Inslee has the poten­tial to accom­plish much more as Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State if he secures anoth­er four years because he could regain time that was lost due to sev­er­al years of leg­isla­tive grid­lock pro­duced by divid­ed gov­ern­ment.

Leg­isla­tive­ly speak­ing, Inslee’s first term was pret­ty much sab­o­taged by the treach­ery of turn­coat Rod­ney Tom, who engi­neered a Repub­li­can takeover of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate in the weeks fol­low­ing Inslee’s first guber­na­to­r­i­al vic­to­ry.

Vot­ers had elect­ed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate in addi­tion to Inslee; but Tom con­spired with fel­low turn­coat Tim Shel­don to deliv­er the cham­ber into Repub­li­can hands.

In exchange, Tom got a nice cor­ner office and the title of Major­i­ty Leader.

Shel­don, mean­while, was slat­ed to become Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore, but Democ­rats foiled that plan by back­ing the incred­i­bly obnox­ious Pam Roach for the posi­tion instead, as a means of pun­ish­ing Shel­don for his treach­ery.

Fol­low­ing Tom and Shel­don’s coup, Repub­li­cans remained in con­trol of the Sen­ate for five years, using their major­i­ty to turn the cham­ber into a grave­yard of progress. Their stran­gle­hold was bro­ken in 2017 when Demo­c­ra­t­ic phe­nom­e­non Man­ka Dhin­gra (a mem­ber of the board of NPI’s sib­ling, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion) won a spe­cial elec­tion in the 45th Dis­trict, turn­ing the cham­ber blue.

Dhin­gra’s vic­to­ry final­ly gave Inslee the slim Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate major­i­ty he ought to have start­ed out his gov­er­nor­ship with — one year into his sec­ond term.

The result was a resound­ing series of leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries for pro­gres­sive ideas.

Last year, in the 2018 midterms, vot­ers expand­ed the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate major­i­ty from twen­ty-five seats to twen­ty-eight, while enlarg­ing the par­ty’s House major­i­ty from fifty to fifty-sev­en. Those wins paved the way for a 2019 leg­isla­tive ses­sion full of cli­mate action and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice wins cham­pi­oned by Inslee.

Hav­ing now expe­ri­enced what it’s like to work with coop­er­a­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic majori­ties for two con­sec­u­tive ses­sions, Inslee is no doubt hun­gry for more oppor­tu­ni­ties to make progress on a mul­ti­tude of fronts. A third term might net him as many as four more leg­isla­tive ses­sions with Demo­c­ra­t­ic majori­ties.

And with Lau­rie Jink­ins tak­ing over as Speak­er of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives this Jan­u­ary, Inslee will soon have a new leg­isla­tive part­ner who is sup­port­ive of more of his pri­or­i­ties (like the abo­li­tion of the death penal­ty) than Frank Chopp was.

Inslee’s report­ed deci­sion to seek anoth­er term could also help the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty focus on expand­ing its majori­ties and flip­ping the two seats in the exec­u­tive depart­ment that it does­n’t con­trol (Sec­re­tary of State and Trea­sur­er). With­out Inslee at the top of the tick­et, there like­ly would be a con­test­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic race for Gov­er­nor, set­ting up con­test­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic races for Attor­ney Gen­er­al and pos­si­bly one for Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands.

And that, in turn, would have led to open seats on both sides of the rotun­da, with Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors run­ning for statewide office instead of pur­su­ing reelec­tion.

Now it appears that realign­ment may be pushed out to the 2024 cycle, allow­ing the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to focus on its offen­sive pri­or­i­ties, includ­ing the afore­men­tioned state-lev­el pick­up oppor­tu­ni­ties as well as the 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, which the par­ty believes can be flipped.

Giv­en that the oth­er Wash­ing­ton is present­ly the site of an unprece­dent­ed, fright­en­ing polit­i­cal dra­ma star­ring a nar­cis­sis­tic, neo­fas­cist sociopath named Don­ald Trump, there’s arguably a real ben­e­fit to post­pon­ing the row of falling domi­noes that would be trig­gered by Inslee’s exit from state pol­i­tics.

That line of think­ing, stat­ed at greater length, goes some­thing like this: If we can’t have sta­bil­i­ty in the oth­er Wash­ing­ton, at least we can enjoy it here. Why change hors­es mid­stream when we have sound lead­er­ship already? Under Jay Inslee, Wash­ing­ton has been rat­ed the best state in the coun­try. We’re Num­ber One!

And, if Inslee remains gov­er­nor, then at least one state in the coun­try will be led by some­one who is will­ing to make tack­ling the cli­mate cri­sis their top pri­or­i­ty.

2020 was already going to be high stakes bat­tle for the future of the Unit­ed States as a whole. Wash­ing­ton will not be a bat­tle­ground state; but big pic­ture mind­ed Wash­ing­to­ni­ans may want to do work in states that are bat­tle­grounds.

It will undoubt­ed­ly be eas­i­er for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans to export time, tal­ent, and trea­sure to places where they could affect the tra­jec­to­ry of the entire coun­try if the in-state polit­i­cal land­scape remains sta­ble through the 2020 elec­tion cycle.

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