He’s not on the ballot, but Gov. Inslee is campaigning like it

Gov. Jay Inslee’s name isn’t on the ballot in November.

But he is raising and spending more money than just about everyone who is vying for a state office.

Inslee hauled in $388,411 in contributions between early March, when lawmakers adjourned and the freeze on fundraising ended, and Aug. 31. He spent $305,887 in the same time frame, according to reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

“It’s a lot of work to manage his political operation,” campaign spokesman Jamal Raad said.

Records show that each month Inslee pays $7,500 to AK Consulting of Seattle, the firm of his campaign manager Aisling Kerins, and $7,500 to Trilogy, a digital media consulting firm in California that also manages his campaign website.

Another $7,500 goes to Newman Partners in Seattle for fundraising fees and $4,000 to JR Consulting Inc. of Seattle, which is Raad’s firm. There are varying sums expended on other staff, fundraising events, travel and advertising.

Basically, it’s everything you would expect of a candidate running for office. None of it covers expenses incurred by Inslee in his duties as chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association, Raad said.

“This is a bigger year,” Raad said, referencing elections in Washington. “We are building a team to not only help his political future but also to do all we can to elect Democrats up and down the ballot and pass the initiatives important to him.”

Inslee’s plans in 2020 are a subject of as much speculating as he can stir: Will he go for a third term? Maybe. A bid for the White House on a presidential ticket? Possibly. A seat in the cabinet of a Democratic president? Probably.

But this year isn’t a mystery. Democrats are poised to build upon their majorities in the House and Senate. Inslee is out and about because the allies he gains in the Legislature can only help him to advance his agenda.

Which should get Republicans thinking harder about making this fall’s legislative elections a referendum on Inslee. While polling shows he is generally liked by voters, not all of the policies he’s doggedly pursued the past six years are popular ones.

On Sept. 26, a bunch of GOP candidates for House and Senate seats gathered outside Seattle City Hall to unveil a set of shared positions they’ve dubbed “Commitment to Washington.”

Topping the list is “Oppose a tax on energy,” which is shorthand for any proposal to impose new fees or taxes on carbon emissions.

This has been and remains Inslee’s most sought-after policy. He has repeatedly proposed ways to make oil refiners, utility firms and a few select corporations pay for pollution they generate. He’s been unable to get anything passed. Now, he’s backing Initiative 1631 to get it done.

Another of the Republican commitments is opposing a capital gains tax. That too has been on Inslee’s things to-do list and might be again if voters elect a few more fans of the idea.

In the meantime, if a Democratic candidate is concerned the governor may be sucking up dollars from their potential donors, they are staying silent.

It’s all about winning elections at this point and Inslee has proven he can do that.

Contact The Herald (Everett) columnist Jerry Cornfield at 360-352-8623, jcornfield@herald net.com or on Twitter, @dospueblos.

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