by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Seattle Gay News last talked with Democratic candidate for governor Jay Inslee in July 2011, only a day after he announced his support for marriage equality. A lot has happened since then.
At the time, no one knew for certain that a marriage bill would be introduced in the legislature, that it would pass and be signed by the governor, or that it would be challenged in a statewide referendum campaign.
When SGN reconnected with Inslee in his busy downtown campaign headquarters, he remarked on how much had changed in the intervening eight months.
'It shows how fast people in the community are coming to accept each other,' Inslee said. 'People couldn't have had it on their radar that we'd move this fast. It's been remarkable. Faster than anything in my lifetime.'
'By the way,' Inslee chuckled, 'my 39-year marriage is just as healthy as it was before [the bill passed]. More so.'
'This issue is not new to me,' he added. In fact, Inslee has co-sponsored every piece of pro-LGBT legislation that was introduced in Congress since he was elected to represent Washington's First District in 1999.
In contrast, his probable Republican opponent, Rob McKenna, opposes marriage equality and recently introduced a ballot description of Referendum 74 that a court determined was biased against equality.
'He's stuck, he's going backwards,' Inslee said of McKenna.
'This is a forward-looking state. We value acceptance and tolerance. I'd love to convince him, but my job is to make sure that he's retired from public office.
'In so many ways, this election is a fork in the road for the state. We've always valued equality. We've always valued innovation. We've always valued environmental protection. We don't want to go backwards.'
Inslee's early stand for marriage equality earned him the support of Gavin Newsom, now lieutenant governor of California and a rising star in the Democratic party. Newsom will be the featured guest at an Inslee fundraiser March 30 at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel.
As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom ordered the city to issue marriage licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples, sparking the court case that resulted in a California Supreme Court decision that briefly legalized same-sex marriage.
'I don't know him well personally,' Inslee said of Newsom, 'but I know his civil rights work. I think he showed great courage. He moved the situation forward. I appreciate his support. I think it shows an understanding that my race is an important one to win.'
Inslee says he has always been optimistic about his chances. Although he lagged behind McKenna in early polling, two more recent polls show him running neck-and-neck with his rival.
'Early polls are going to bounce all over the place,' Inslee said. 'We'll be ahead in some and we'll be behind in some.'
Nevertheless, he said, 'We will do exactly what we need to do - which is to win. We will win because of our job-creation message, and because our value system reflects the values of the state.'
The November ballot will feature President Obama, Sen. Maria Cantwell and every statewide office including governor, a host of state legislators, and - probably - Referendum 74.
Asked if he was worried about competition for resources among all these candidates and ballot issues, Inslee said he was not.
'We're doing well as far as resources go,' Inslee told SGN. 'We've raised $4.2 million. We have 20,000 donors. I expect we might be outspent, but we'll have enough to win.
'On top of that, the president has been helping in a variety of ways. He repealed 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' he passed healthcare reform, he's leading on clean energy. And I've been a national leader in these areas.'
Citing Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker, Inslee warns against 'camouflage candidates' who appear to be moderate but take a hard right turn after they are elected.
'People are coming to understand the risks of allowing Republicans into high office,' he said.
'Look what's going on. The environment is at risk, equality is at risk, collective bargaining is at risk, choice is at risk. We have to redebate all the issues that were settled in the '50s!'
Inslee's campaign slogan is 'Building a Working Washington' and his central message, he says, is jobs.
'People like our jobs message,' Inslee said. 'They like the focus on growing our businesses, growing new jobs, and helping our children have a good life.
'We want to harness the spirit of innovation that this state has. Washington has always been an economic leader in the technological revolutions that have shaped the modern economy - first in aerospace and then in software.
'We invent. We create. We build. That's why I want to serve - to help the state break out of the box.'
Inslee quickly ticked off areas where he believes new jobs can be created - 'aerospace, biomed, clean energy, computational services.'
'That's why I decided to run,' he continued. 'I asked myself, 'What is the best thing I can do to create jobs?'
Once elected, Inslee said, he hopes to build a bipartisan majority in the legislature. Asked if he thinks he can peel away Republican votes in the same way that Republicans recently peeled away three Democratic senators to pass their budget proposal, Inslee shook his head.
'I don't think of it as 'peeling away,' he said. 'I think of it as trying to find a larger consensus. We'll work with everybody. I'd like to think that Republicans can return to the rational social and environmental values they once had.'
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