Photo: Congressman Jay Inslee with supporters at Edmonds Forum, August 5, 2010
Both a highlight and lowlight during my visit to the Edmonds Candidate Forum in Edmonds, I had the opportunity to speak with District 1 Congressman Jay Inslee. I didn’t expect I would have the opportunity but an awkward moment allowed for the chance and I took advantage to ask two questions:
- How do we really expect to pay for the Health Care bill?
- Are you running for governor in 2012?
To be fair to the Congressman, he probably felt a little bit ambushed. He knew I wasn’t one of the faithful blue but when I introduced myself he gave me more time than I thought he would. He was polite, articulate, and quick witted. Though we exchanged some barbs on the use of select words or phrases, the tension wasn’t disrespectful. It was an exercise in democracy and free speech that at least for me was a little like a “Joe the Plumber” moment; little guy in front of "the man." Where else in the world can citizens come out of nowhere to personally challenge the political elite like this but in America? That has to be a highlight.
The Congressman was quick to offer raw data about Health Care finance if I wanted it and rapidly walked through the planning assumptions that show how health care will not just be paid for but even reduce the overall budget. I’m not going to jot the details because, frankly, I don’t understand them all and am not sure anyone does. The point is this: It doesn’t really matter that I am unconvinced about Obama Care not driving the United States into unmanageable debt… Jay Inslee isn’t. He is fully confident the dollars will work out and that the legislation was the right thing to do. Independent voters should expect little if any change in his view and I suspect the matter will be hotly debated with the as of yet undecided Republican challenger.
Note to self: you don’t manage to stay in a powerful political office since 1993 without knowing how to not say something. It isn’t personal; it’s politics.
As an independent minded conservative-libertarian voter, I want my Congressman to be fully focused on the critical challenges our country is facing right now and not be working on his next job. From a practical standpoint, any of these three answers would have been reasonable:
- No, I am not going to run for governor in 2012 and I want to put that rumor to rest right now. This country is facing dire economic, security, environmental and social challenges and my attention needs to be fully focused on the job at hand.
- I haven’t decided yet. This country is facing incredible challenges right now and I am needed right here. As things improve, I will reassess and let voters know.
- Yes, I am considering a Gubernatorial challenge in 2012. It’s no secret. But right now my attention is needed right here running for re-election to Congress. Can I count on your vote?
After pressing the question at least three times, Jay Inslee refused to say anything more than that he was running for Congress and evaded the gubernatorial context entirely. On my last try, Jay answered, “I’ve answered it good enough for me.” We shook hands as the conversation abruptly ended. He didn’t answer my question.
The lowlight of the Edmonds Forum is that Congressman Jay Inslee, very popular with his base, seems uncommitted and evasive to me, a career politician looking for his next job and he lacked the moral courage to simply give a straight answer. He is hedging. This completely unnecessary omission to be clear was actually very clear. I am tired of politicians who won’t be honest. Independent voters can’t count on Jay to be there when they need him to be.
Voters have the right to know where Jay Inslee really wants to be before November.