Jay Inslee ContactBack to top
Address: Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 40002, Olympia, WA 98504
Jay Inslee BiographyBack to top
- Elected: 2012, term expires Jan. 2017, 1st term.
- State: Washington
- Born: Feb. 09, 1951, Seattle
- Home: Bainbridge Island
Stanford U., 1969-70, U. of WA, B.A. 1973, Willamette U., J.D. 1976.
- Professional Career:
Practicing atty., 1976-92, 1995-96; Regional dir., U.S. Dept. of H.H.S., 1997-98.
- Political Career:
WA House, 1988-92; U.S. House, 2000-12, 1992-94.
- Family: Married (Trudi); 3 children
Democrat Jay Inslee was narrowly elected Washington’s governor in 2012 after serving 13 years in the U.S. House.
Inslee grew up in north Seattle, the son of a high school biology teacher and football coach. He graduated from the University of Washington and Willamette University College of Law. He moved to Selah, in Yakima County east of the Cascades, to practice law and served on the State Trial Lawyers Association board of directors. In 1988, at age 37, he was elected to the state House over a former Yakima mayor.
In 1992, when 4th District Rep. Sid Morrison ran for governor, Inslee won the general election to succeed him 51%-49% over Doc Hastings, a conservative supported by the Christian Coalition. In the House, Inslee voted for the Clinton budget and tax increase and for a crime bill with a ban on assault weapons. In 1994, Hastings challenged Inslee and beat him, 53%-47%. After his defeat, Inslee moved to Bainbridge Island and practiced law in Seattle. In 1996, he ran for governor and finished fifth, with 10% of the total vote, in the all-party primary. He briefly served as regional director of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
In 1998, Inslee decided to run for Congress again, this time in the 1st District against Republican incumbent Rick White, an economic conservative with liberal votes on some cultural issues. Inslee attacked White for voting to reduce spending on education and the environment and for supporting electricity deregulation, claiming that White was “willing to sell our reasonably priced electricity to California.” White painted Inslee as a carpetbagger. In the September all-party primary, White led 50%-44%. But by November, two issues changed the balance. One was White’s divorce. Inslee ran ads claiming that White intended to spend 10 years in the House and then become a lobbyist, a charge his ex-wife had made in divorce papers. He also ran ads highlighting White’s vote to impeach President Bill Clinton. In the acrimony, the primary numbers were reversed in November, and Inslee won 50%-44%.
In Congress, Inslee was a moderate-to-liberal Democrat who notched no significant legislative accomplishments or attained a leadership position, two criticisms that Washington Republicans raised during the governor’s race. He joined in protecting the privacy of consumer financial records—an issue important to Microsoft, his largest single source of campaign funds as a congressman. He and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., pressed the Federal Communications Commission in December 2010 for stricter rules on the FCC’s proposed net-neutrality order that some Republicans said was already too unfriendly to business. When security experts reported in 2011 that Apple’s iPhone could secretly track its users’ movements, Inslee called for greater government oversight of data collection. In February 2011, Inslee seconded the GOP’s alarm about growing budget deficits and called for closing tax loopholes.
On the Energy and Commerce Committee, Inslee focused on conservation and increasing renewable energy sources. As early as 2005, he introduced bills to address global warming and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. When Republicans skeptical of climate change took control of the House, Inslee criticized what he called the GOP’s “allergy to science,” and toted a stack of more than 20 books to a March 2011 hearing, saying they contained irrefutable evidence of the problem. A book Inslee co-authored about ending the United States’ dependence on foreign oil was published in 2007.
When two-term Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire decided to retire in 2012, Inslee already had laid the groundwork for a bid, alerting his campaign donors of the possibility. Nine months after launching his candidacy, he decided in March 2012 to resign his House seat to campaign full-time, saying, “I am not one for half measures or half-hearted efforts.” The situation created a dilemma for state officials, who had not budgeted the $1 million needed to hold a special election. They decided to leave the seat vacant until November, with the winner serving the remaining two months of his unexpired term.
Inslee’s stature cleared the field of any other top-tier contenders, and he won the state’s top-two primary in August with 47% of the vote. That set up a general-election matchup against Republican Rob McKenna, the state’s attorney general, who took 43% in the all-party primary. With Washington tilting Democratic, especially in presidential politics, Inslee was regarded as having a slight edge. He stressed four main themes in his race: Streamlining state government to support job creation in targeted industries, especially in alternative energy; lowering high school dropout rates; protecting Washington’s quality of life, especially its cherished natural environment; and eliminating government waste and improving the quality of services. He unveiled a detailed plan to create a Cabinet-level Office of Economic Competitiveness and Development that would focus on aerospace, agriculture, information technology, life sciences, defense, and small businesses.
Republicans liked McKenna’s chances. As attorney general, he focused on consumer protection issues and, as president of the National Association of Attorneys General, played a key role in a $25 billion multi-state settlement with banks over their mortgage practices. Democrats sought to tie him to the tea party movement, citing his decision to join other states in challenging the federal health care law. But McKenna campaigned as a business-friendly moderate who promised to reprioritize government spending and devote more money to education without raising taxes. He played up his pro-environment beliefs and said that, in contrast to several GOP governors elected in 2010, he did not oppose collective bargaining and would work with unions if elected. He said he personally opposed abortion, but that ultimately it was up to the woman to decide. He got help from state Republicans who played up the failure of some of the clean-energy companies that Inslee had highlighted in his book.
Polls showed it to be a close race. But Obama’s strong reelection showing in the state—he won with 56% of the vote—helped put Inslee over the top with a 52%-49% victory. McKenna eked out a 52%-48% win in Tacoma’s Pierce County and dominated the rural eastern half of the state. But Inslee decisively won Seattle’s King County, 62%-38%, and took Everett’s Snohomish County 51%-49%. He also joined Obama in winning the Asian and Hispanic vote by large margins.
Taking office, Inslee pushed to appoint an outside group to advise the state on reducing greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time increasing the share of energy created in the state. “This is not some kind of hypothetical, far-off-in-the-distant future thing that seven generations from now they can worry about,” he warned state legislators in March. He also criticized the Republican-led state Senate for having “gone backward” on plans to revamp the state’s workers’ compensation system. He called on lawmakers to pass what he repeatedly stressed were “common sense” measures to reduce gun violence, such as expanded background checks. Members of both parties questioned his plan to break from the practice of previous Democratic governors and submit only a partial state budget during his early months in office.Show Less
Jay Inslee Election ResultsBack to top
House: 2010 (58%), 2008 (68%), 2006 (68%), 2004 (62%), 2002 (56%), 2000 (55%), 1998 (50%), 1992 (51%)