Governor picks progressive over moderate, incumbent state senator
Gov. Jay Inslee made news recently with a surprise, and highly unusual, endorsement of a progressive Democrat who is challenging an incumbent state senator of the governor’s own party.
In the suburban 5th Legislative District, small-business owner Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) is being challenged by Big Labor’s handpicked opponent, Ingrid Anderson, in what has shaped up to be the closest contest of this election cycle. No Republican filed for the office.
Inslee stunned most observers with the endorsement, saying, “I’ve been clear about the urgent need to adopt cleaner fuels and build a clean energy economy here in Washington State. Ingrid shares this sense of urgency, as a matter of public health and environmental protection. We need her voice – and her vote – to take overdue action to protect our health and climate.”
Never before has Inslee openly picked sides in an intraparty election fight, not even against Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch), who caucuses with the Senate Republicans and opposes the governor’s climate change agenda.
Throwing his weight behind a challenger, particularly against a member of legislative leadership, breaks new, and potentially dangerous, ground for the governor. Mullet is the Senate Majority Whip and chairs both the Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade Committee, and the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee.
Other moderate (and some not-so-moderate) Democrats have taken note, and are none too pleased by the development.
Rep. Amy Walen (D-Kirkland) took to Facebook, posting “Having the Governor endorse a candidate from the left just shows that each member must guard their own seat, regardless of their voting record. So much for the ‘big tent.’ Varying perspectives should be welcome in our party and in our debates.”
Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) commented, “Thank you Amy for saying what many of us thought when we saw the Gov’s ‘endorsement’! Maybe he’d like to endorse my R opponent while he’s at it.”
Chapman’s seatmate, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who, like Mullet, is a member of the Senate’s moderate Roadkill Caucus, replied simply, “Agreed Amy!!”
Former state Rep. Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) added, “I am surprised. I remain a strong Inslee supporter but this was an unwelcomed surprise. And I’m thinking all for naught.”
Other Democrat incumbents are right to worry. If Inslee’s endorsement topples Mullet, it will be a chilling disincentive for any Democrat legislator to oppose the governor, or work across the aisle seeking reasonable, balanced approaches on issues where Inslee has a different position.
For its part, NFIB has sent a letter to members in Sen. Mark Mullet’s district commending him for his leadership and bipartisan approach on a number of our legislative priorities.
For more information, contact Washington State Director Patrick Connor at 360-786-8675.