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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rep. Jay Inslee, candidate for governor
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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Rep. Jay Inslee, candidate for governor

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Congressman Jay Inslee is already running a whirlwind campaign for governor.

Less than a month after announcing he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination, Inslee has launched himself into a non-stop round of meetings and fundraisers.

He spent 20 minutes between campaign stops talking with SGN at Uptown Espresso on July 24.

Inslee endorses marriage equality. His political director, Joby Shimomura, announced Inslee's support for same-sex marriage on July 23.

If elected, he will be the first governor of this state to unequivocally support equal access to marriage, and all the rights and benefits that come with it.

Asked what he would do as governor to pass a marriage bill, Inslee promised an active campaign.

'I expect to be leading,' he said.

'It's a question of fundamental values. I would help the legislators to understand that it's recognition of their neighbors and neighbors' children - so that they have what we have.

'I think everyone has a right to have what I have,' Inslee continued. 'I have a 30-year marriage. It's not an abstract issue. My sons - I have three sons - and I think all three should have equal rights.'

Would Inslee accept civil unions as a compromise - as Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee did last month - over the protests of LGBT activists?

'Nomenclature is tricky,' Inslee replied, 'but we already have the domestic partnership laws. The way to move forward is full equality. It's not just a word. It's not just a title. There are - what, a thousand federal rights? Social security benefits, tax benefits, family and medical leave.

'It's respect for stable relationships,' he continued. 'Now, I'm not judgmental about people who don't want a stable relationship. But it's family values. Real family values.

'When I was an attorney, I represented a guy who had his foster care license pulled just because he was Gay,' he recalled. 'He could have provided a stable family for those kids. It's family values.

'I think public opinion is moving faster than the speed of light on this. This state has moved very dramatically.'

If elected, passing a marriage bill may be the least of Inslee's worries.

For several years, the state's revenue has fallen short of projections, forcing Gov. Christine Gregoire to offer up all-cuts budgets. In June her approval rating fell to a mere 31%, with 64% disapproving of her job performance.

There is no reason to expect that the state's economy will rebound anytime soon. Does Inslee really want to be governor, under the circumstances?

'You know, I gave that a lot of thought,' he replied.

'I love this state. We're in a period of great challenges but I think we have the capacity and the potential to continue to grow if we make good decisions.'

Asked if Gov. Gregoire's all-cuts budgets have hurt the Democratic Party brand, Inslee - significantly - did not say no.

'We have challenges,' he said once more. 'The collapse of the economy caused by Wall Street. The 'Wisconsin syndrome' - blaming public employees for the state's budget problems. The Eyman initiatives that make it very hard for us to raise revenue.'

'We need vigorous advocates for the middle class,' Inslee added 'You know, I used to drive cement trucks, I used to drive a bulldozer. That's who I am and that's what I grew up with - working people.

'The theme of my campaign is 'Building a Working Washington.'

Budget cutting has severely restricted access to the state's Basic Health program, which provides sliding-scale health insurance to residents who are not otherwise covered. Since many LGBT workers are employed in industries like retail or hospitality that are not heavily unionized, they may rely on Basic Health for their medical care.

Asked what he would do to ensure access to medical care for all state residents, Inslee said that federal healthcare reform was a good start and needed to be supported on the state level.

'[If I'm elected] you'd have a governor committed to both expanding coverage and bringing efficiencies to healthcare.

'I support increasing access. For example, I think people who have cancer should still be able to get coverage without exemptions for pre-existing conditions. I think students should be able to be covered under their parents' policy.

'I also have the vision to bring efficiencies that will reduce medical inflation. For example, focus on preventive care, change the ways we use ERs, and get away from the fee for service system.'

Noting that the one declared Republican candidate, Attorney General Rob McKenna, joined a lawsuit to have the 2010 national healthcare law declared unconstitutional, Inslee said, 'I want to find a way to deliver healthcare and reduce medical inflation. The other candidate wants to stop and go backwards,'

Inslee has been in politics for a long time. He served in the state legislature from 1988 till 1992, when he was elected to Congress representing the 4th District in central Washington.

Defeated for reelection in the 'Newt Gingrich revolution' of 1994, Inslee moved to Bainbridge Island and was elected to Congress a second time in 1998, this time representing the 1st District, north of Seattle.

Asked what he likes about public office and what he hates about it, Inslee grinned.

'The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat,' he replied. 'And I don't mean 'defeat' as in losing an election.'

'I love to help someone who has a good idea make it real,' he said, ticking off the names of entrepreneurs and researchers he helped to secure funding for their projects. 'Working with geniuses is very exciting!'

'The most painful thing,' he continued, 'is to watch opportunities slip by. And I've seen that happen every day for the last year and a half [since Republicans captured the House of Representatives].

'This guy I met just before this interview, he was telling me about China, and how they planned how to invest in technology and infrastructure - a long-term plan - while we, in the U.S. are cutting research budgets.

'We just voted to cut 30% from our clean energy budget - not we; I voted against it - but the Republicans cut it.'

Inslee noted that after his Seattle campaign events he was 'catching the red-eye back to D.C.' to vote on the expected debt reduction bill.

'The budget is very tenuous, and that's anxiety-producing,' Inslee warned. 'A lot could be lost. A lot could be gained - but right now that doesn't look achievable. Our nascent recovery is at risk.'

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