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Inslee cites record on environment, local issues

If his opponent wants to turn the election into a referendum over Iraq, Jay Inslee invites the debate.

But to the extent he can frame the issues, Inslee also wants to talk about his work on other local and regional affairs that he thinks are important to his 1st District constituents.

“There are a broad range of environmental issues that I think are important,” Inslee said, “like protection of old-growth forests, resisting efforts to weaken clean air laws, and making sure there are adequate funds to complete the Wyckoff Superfund cleanup.”

Inslee’s mix of attention to local and national issues has made him an odds-on favorite to win a third term.

He captured over 56 percent of all votes in the September primary, compared to Republican opponent Joe Marine’s 37 percent, a showing that did not prompt the national Republican party to come to Marine’s aid financially.

On Iraq, Inslee expressed doubts about whether a compelling case exists that Saddam Hussein presents an imminent threat to the United States.

His greater concern is over whether the country should abandon efforts to work through the United Nations and take a unilateral approach on Iraq.

“This nation needs to lead the world in a multi-national effort rather than unilateral action,” Inslee said in a Thursday interview.

“We have led the world in developing multi-national efforts, and can’t abandon that. We must be pro-active with the international community rather than working against it.”

Inslee noted that he voted for a floor amendment that would permit the use of force against Iraq only after exhausting all diplomatic efforts, including U.N. arms inspections, but voted against allowing unilateral use of force.

“A number of our generals tell us that a unilateral strike has the potential of supercharging Osama bin Laden’s recruiting,” he said. “There is no sense in taking out one tyrant and creating 10,000 terrorists in the process.”

Through his position on the House Resources Committee, Inslee has been active in a number of environmentally related areas, especially forest protection.

He co-sponsored a measure to enact as law former President Bill Clinton’s administrative decision to prevent road-building in roadless forest areas.

While that bill was pending, the Bush administration proffered what it called its “healthy forest” plan that would allow thinning of vegetation in some forest areas in the name of fire prevention.

Inslee has opposed that measure, which environmentalists have criticized as a ruse to allow cutting of old-growth forests, and for its suspension of certain environmental requirements.

In the aftermath of last year’s terror attack, Inslee sponsored a bill to require X-raying of all checked airline baggage.

The legislation passed but has not been implemented, Inslee said.

“The administration has gotten in the way on that one by not actually ordering any of the screening machines,” Inslee said.

On the economy, Inslee has supported the plan to lease a number of 767 jets from Boeing to use as aerial fuel tankers, which he says “will mean thousands of jobs for Boeing.”

He favors expanded unemployment benefits, noting Washington’s nation-leading unemployment rate.

“Getting money into the hands of those who are out of work is a great way to stimulate the economy,” he said.

Inslee is concerned that the federal budget is entering another era of chronic deficits, which he says have been caused in roughly equal portions by the recession, the war on terrorism and the Bush tax cuts.

Inslee acknowledges that he voted against fast-track trade authority for the president.

But he says it was because of a provision in the bill that gave foreign corporations the right to sue the government to recover certain environmental remediation costs.

Inslee points to his sponsorship of locally oriented legislation, specifically his efforts to make the Japanese-American exclusion memorial proposed for the Taylor Avenue road end into part of the National Park Service, and his efforts to put the Wyckoff Superfund site in Eagle Harbor into public ownership.

One of the most rewarding aspects of his job, Inslee says, is turning his constituents’ ideas into national policy.

He cited specifically bank-privacy legislation that he sponsored, which came from a constituent’s concern that banks were selling financial data.

“We have a great collection of creative people in the district,” Inslee said.

“Taking their ideas and putting them into action is one of the things that really makes this job enjoyable.”

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