Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Inslee defends election strategy, says he'll stay in Congress and run for governor

Rep. Jay Inslee speaking at a manufacturing facility earlier this month in Seattle.
The Associated Press
Rep. Jay Inslee speaking at a manufacturing facility earlier this month in Seattle.

Despite trailing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna in several polls and grumbling from within the Democratic party that he focus on the governor’s race, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) says his campaign for the governor's mansion is on track. 

About remaining in Congress while the election for Washington state's top seat heats up in earnest, Inslee said: “Listen, that did not stop me from putting out my job creation agenda. … Yes, I've got some responsibilities in Washington D.C., but we are pursuing a very vigorous effort to [get] people back to work.”

He said the election is “going to be a long road” and he is confident voters will respond to his job-creation proposals. Inslee spoke with KPLU on Friday, two days after the Democratic party-affiliated Public Policy Polling found the two rivals in a dead heat with 42 percent support from voters each.  

Behind in other polls

The latest polling of more than 1,000 Washingtonians came a week after two competing surveys put McKenna well ahead of the congressman. Pollster Stuart Elway gave McKenna a lead of 9 points while Survey USA determined the Republican had a 10-point advantage.

Analyzing the differing results, PPP Director Tom Jenson told The Seattle Times that McKenna likely retained the lead, but by a narrowing margin. The two men are vying to replace Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is not seeking a third term.

A McKenna win in November would give Republicans control of the governor's mansion for the first time since 1980.  

Determined to do both jobs

But Inslee is banking on his job creation initiatives and ties to either side of the state to carry the day. His economic plan, released in early February, emphasizes helping “innovative” industries expand with government assistance, including tax incentives.

“We think people are excited about our jobs plan and I'm excited to help them, because we have led two technological revolutions already: The first in aerospace [and] the second in software,” Inslee said. “Now I think we're going to invent, as we always have, whole new industries in this state. That's what we do. We invent, we create, we build.”

An impassioned Inslee spoke excitedly about his vision for Washington, but party activists have questioned his commitment to the campaign trail. On February 26, the Times reported fellow Democrats have quietly asked Inslee to step down from Congress and focus full-time on the gubernatorial race.  

Pushed with that criticism, Inslee again pointed to his roadmap for job creation. Rolling out the 29-page proposal while serving in the other Washington proves he's able to juggle both positions, the seven-term congressman said.  

On the fundraising trail

If Inslee is trailing in the polls, he's gaining ground in fundraising.

The congressman headed to California Monday for a post-Oscar night bash at the home of Len Ungar, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “Hosting” the event costs donors $3,600 while co-hosting comes in at $2,000.  

Inslee, who has raised about $3.8 million thus far, goes to New York in early March for a similarly priced fundraiser thrown for him by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.  

According to, McKenna has had to stop collecting campaign donations because state officials are prohibited from fundraising while the Legislature is in session. He has raised a total of $3.73 million, according to the latest figures from the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Washington, D.C., correspondent for KNKX.