Ishmael back in ring for rematch vs. Inslee

When Republican Larry Ishmael challenged Jay Inslee for his congressional seat just four months before the 2006 general election, the results were predictable.

The Bainbridge Democrat swept up 67 percent of the vote, leaving Ishmael with important lessons about campaigning.

“There was so much to learn,” he said. “I’ve been exposed to it now and I won’t be surprised by it again.”

The Red­mond-based business consultant chalked up his first run as a name-building exercise, and has again announced his candidacy for Repre­sentative of Wash­­ing­ton’s 1st Con­gressional Dis­trict – this time, 11 months before the election.

Ishamael enters the race with the endorsement of the Washington State Republican Party, backing from the likes of gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and with some trendy tools at his disposal.

He kicked off his campaign online on Nov. 28 with a YouTube video, which he said allows him to track the reach of his message and appeal to a younger crowd.

“It shows that I’m not a total fogie, I understand technology,” he said.

In the four-minute clip, shot at his home, Ishmael wastes little time in driving to the heart of his campaign: that Congress has become infectiously partisan, and “career politicians” like Inslee are to blame.

“With Congress’s approval rating at only 11 percent, we need to get rid of these bitter partisan politicians, regardless of party,” Ishmael tells the camera as a fireplace flickers behind him.

Ishmael said the key to unseating Inslee will be convincing voters that in six terms in Congress and two in state Legislature, the incumbent Democrat has abandoned his constituents in favor of his party.

“Inslee has been an absolutely artful dodger in somehow coming across as a moderate,” Ishmael said. “That’s what we’re going to do, expose his really liberal agenda and that he represents his party’s interests, not his district.”

Ishmael isn’t shying from Inslee’s perceived strengths. In fact, he believes he has done more to protect the environment in the private sector than Inslee has in Congress.

Ishmael said Inslee’s flagship Apollo Energy Program is too complex to be effective and is simply a lot of talk with few tangible results to match.

Meanwhile, Ishmael said his company recently drafted a vehicle emissions monitoring program for Sao Paulo, Brazil, which he touts as the world’s largest clean air project.

Ishmael’s work overseas has focused on privatizing and streamlining public amenities like phone and power utilities.

He said his negotiations with foreign businesses and governments, especially in Latin America, have given him a global perspective badly needed in Congress.

“No one else in Congress has that kind of experience with foreign dignitaries,” he said.

Along with his foreign relations experience, Ishmael’s campaign will emphasize funding for education, fiscal responsibility and a homeland security policy that includes tighter borders and greater energy independence.

With one elected public position as an Issaquah school board director under his belt, Ishmael will lean heavily on his business experience to assure voters he is ready for congress, at least for a 12-year stint. He has pledged to serve no more than six terms if elected.

Inslee spokesperson Christine Hanson Clapp said the congressman is focused on passing legislation rather than the coming election.

That includes a bill he cosponsored to fund research of alternative energy sources and research and sequestering carbon emissions, which passed in the House Thursday.

If Inslee’s environmental proposals are complex, Clapp said, it’s because he is trying to create policy and leadership at a federal level, rather than letting private industry set the nation’s energy agenda. Inslee is happy to listen to anyone on the topic, she said, including Ishmael.

“Jay welcomes every possible voice to the debate on what we are doing to stop global warming,” she said. “He is more than happy to debate that issue.”

But Clapp challenged Ishmael’s assertion that Inslee is out of touch. She said Inslee continues to fight for issues important to 1st District constituents including the environment and health care and returns to Puget Sound whenever possible.

“The fact that Jay makes it home every single weekend to his district and maintains a home on Bainbridge, I think that’s indicative of his connection to his district,” Clapp said. “He’s definitely a 1st District guy.”

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