Former Rep. Jay Inslee Joins Governor's Race

Former Democratic congressman Jay Inslee launched his bid for governor today, declaring himself the "mainstream" candidate in the race.

In a noon speech at a Seattle hotel that he also delivered in Yakima and Spokane, Inslee stressed his interest in campaign reform, environmental protection and education.

"I want to tell you that the folks who are going to try and roll back the progress that we have made in the last 30 years, they're going to have to do it over my dead body," Inslee said in reference to Republican attempts to scale back major environmental laws.

Earlier, Inslee said he would wear his 1994 congressional campaign defeat proudly.

"What it showed was when you vote your convictions over political expediency, on occasion it's not good for your career," Inslee said.

Inslee said he lost last year to Richard "Doc" Hastings, R-Pasco, largely over his vote in favor of a ban on assault weapons - a tough stand, Inslee said, in his former Central Washington district.

Inslee, now living on Bainbridge Island, began his campaign for governor back in his old district this morning with an announcement in Yakima before flying to Seattle and Spokane.

Already in the race on the Democratic side is Sen. Nita Rinehart of Seattle. Five Republicans have declared.

Gov. Mike Lowry might also run for re-election but says he won't decide until after the new year.

Lowry spokesman Jordan Dey welcomed Inslee to the race. "The governor believes in healthy discussion of the issues," Dey said. "Jay Inslee should bring that."

Dey said the prospect of facing two challengers in the Democratic primary won't influence Lowry's decision about whether to run. More important, Dey said, will be discussions with Lowry's family, and whether Lowry believes his vision "matches the vision of the people of Washington state. . . . If people agree with that vision, they'll vote for him. Who else is running is less of a consideration."

When Rinehart announced, she said it was time for Lowry to retire.

Said Inslee: "I can't be a judge about what the governor should do. That's really his decision."

Rinehart said Inslee's announcement does not change her campaign plans. She has already raised $30,000, including $6,000 collected yesterday, she said.

Inslee said he will push for campaign-finance reform and ask his opponents, Democrats and Republicans, to agree to a spending limit.

"I have a vision to offer that is a little unique and I believe is in the mainstream in the thinking of the people of Washington, as opposed to the extreme," Inslee said.

Inslee said that includes being socially progressive and supportive of strong environmental protections, while being "fiscally responsible." Inslee was active in the campaign to defeat Referendum 48, the business-backed property-rights measure.

Inslee, 44, went to high school in Seattle and then to the University of Washington after a year at Stanford University.

He went to Willamette Law School before moving to Selah, north of Yakima, where he practiced law from 1976 to 1992.

He served in the state Legislature for four years before running for Congress in 1992.