Inslee opts out of run for governor

He’ll seek a fourth term in Congress representing the

1st District.

Bainbridge Island’s man in the other Washington has decided that he’ll try to stay there, rather than making a move for the governor’s mansion in Olympia.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st District) said Monday that rather than throw his hat into the three-way race for the Democratic nomination to succeed Gov. Gary Locke, he will instead seek a fourth term in Congress.

“It was a difficult decision,” Inslee said in an interview with the Review, “but people perceive that the real challenges are in Washington, and they wanted me to stay there and fight.”

Inslee had said privately some months ago that he was considering another race for governor – he sought the office in 1996 – and publicly announced his interest after Locke said he would not seek a third term.

But Monday, Inslee said he would not add his name to a list of candidates that includes former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge, King County Executive Ron Sims and the presumptive favorite, two-term Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

“If I had a nickel for everyone who told me, ‘we think you’d make a great governor, but we need you where you are,’ I’d be a rich man,” Inslee said.

Inslee said he has not decided which of the three declared gubernatorial candidates he will support.

“I intend to meet with all of them,” he said.

Local political observers had suggested that Inslee would have a difficult time finding a constituency among the three declared candidates – Talmadge, an outspoken liberal; Sims, a moderate African-American with high name recognition in voter-rich King County; and Gregoire, a woman twice elected to statewide office by wide margins.

Those observers had also noted that the state’s nine congressional seats have not, historically, been successful launching points for the governorship.

Inslee did run for governor seven years ago, after serving one term in Congress from the 4th District surrounding Yakima, but finished third in the primary vote.

Inslee moved to Bainbridge Island, and took the 1st District seat away from fellow islander Rick White in 1998.

He was re-elected in 2000 over state Senate majority leader Dan McDonald.

In 2002, Inslee won a third term, beating Mukilteo businessman Joe Marine. That race drew little interest from the national Republican Party, suggesting that political professionals considered the seat essentially “safe” for Inslee.

Inslee said the principal upcoming battles with the Bush Administration will involve the environment – an issue on which he has frequently criticized the president – and Iraq. He said the president’s pending request for $87 billion for military and reconstruction operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may spur a significant round of questions within Congress.

“You need to hit the administration over the head with a two-by-four to get them to realize that Iraq is not an American triumph but an American burden, and we need others to share it,” said Inslee, who last year voted against the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq.

“We need to internationalize that operation, and I expect discussion about the budget request will be along those lines,” he said.

Inslee said the decision against making a run at the statehouse was “a difficult one,” and that he believed he had ideas to contribute, especially on the importance of education financing.

But he said the people he talked to persuaded him that holding the congressional seat and representing the area in Washington “where the greatest threat lies” was more important.

“This was the right decision, one that is good for the constituents,” he said.

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