Inslee has lots of options: President? Governor? Retirement?

  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 2:33pm
  • Opinion

OLYMPIA — The political machinery of Jay Inslee is in pretty much full operation these days. And it’s stirred up a spew of speculation on what Washington’s two-term Democratic governor will do in 2020. Run for president? Seek a third term? Retire on Bainbridge Island?

His future is a source of renewed rumination because he’s heading to Iowa next month to deliver the keynote address at a party fundraiser. He’s been invited in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. In that role, he’s tasked with getting Democrats elected governor in as many states as possible and Iowa is one place it could happen this year. Iowa is also where the journey to the White House begins.

In just 19 months the state will hold the nation’s first presidential caucuses. Even before the invite arrived Inslee had been getting mentions as one of a multitude of ambitious Democrats possibly thinking about maybe running for president. At the least, hanging out with the party rank-and-file and officialdom in Iowa will further polish his credentials as a player on the national stage. Maybe it will even boost a sagging online effort to recruit him to run.

Supporters started a petition and created a Facebook page. As of Wednesday, 48 people had put their names on the petition and 286 are followers of the Facebook page. The governor’s political operation is emailing supporters as often as any serious candidate on the ballot this year.

Some are pitches for money; he raised $40,391 in April. Many urge recipients to act on an issue. It’s called digital organizing and keeps Inslee engaged with those vital donors and volunteers. “It’s incredibly important, even in off-years,” said Jamal Raad, a spokesman for Inslee’s gubernatorial-presidential-aspirational endeavors. Inslee hired Blue State Digital and Trilogy Interactive to steer the effort. Both are among the go-to digital firms for progressive candidates and causes.

Blue State Digital helped construct the data and digital infrastructure that helped U.S. Sen. Barack Obama build a movement and raise the money to win the presidency in 2008 and keep it in 2012. The company also worked on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016. Trilogy, according to its website, has worked for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., herself a potential 2020 candidate for president, as well as Everytown for Gun Safety, the Service Employees International Union and the Chicago Cubs.

To political insiders Inslee is executing the proper game plan to launch a campaign in 2019 for the White House or another term as the state’s chief executive. While the Oval Office may seem out of reach at first blush, a third term in Olympia is not. If he declared today he’s pretty much a lock to win it — and dash the desires of a certain attorney general and a certain King County executive.

The state’s economy is booming, which is a great thing for the governor. And there’s been gains made on every plank of the Democratic Party agenda in his tenure, albeit some through the initiative process. He certainly can’t take credit for every accomplishment. And in the bubble of the state Capitol, you will find bipartisan agreement that many legislative ones occurred in spite of Inslee not because of him.

No matter. Off the Capitol Campus, those advances celebrated by Democrats have happened on his watch and credit will accrue to him regardless. It is the most high-grade fuel for his political machine driving his political future.

Jerry Cornfield is the political reporter for The Herald in Everett.

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