Jay Inslee doesn't support an income tax. "I think it’s wrong for the state of Washington," says the Democrat running for governor. In fact, even though the state is facing a cascade of future budget shortfalls and education is being gutted, Inslee doesn't support any new tax. "I do not believe that raising taxes in the state of Washington is the right solution to the economy we have," he tells the SECB. And he doesn't support passing Initiative 502, which would make pot legal and taxed, thereby raising about a half-billion-dollars a year in new taxes.
"I just have to tell you, as a father and grandfather, I am not comfortable voting for this initiative," Jay Inslee explains. Of Democrats, however, 71 percent of them support the initiative and 60 percent of residents in the Seattle area support it, according to a recent SurveyUSA poll. But not Inslee. "It sends a message to our kids." Asked to elaborate on that dusty talking point, Inslee continues, "I am not comfortable sending a message to those who I care about that I am accepting of legalizing marijuana."
Meanwhile, Inslee hews to party-line support for same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act—both issues that liberals like—but those issues are largely settled now. So he's standing on safe ground.
Inslee's approach won't necessarily inspire progressives, but it is a logical strategy. Inslee is inoculating against conservative attacks that he'd be a tax-and-spend, drug-lovin' liberal. And he's going to use his measured platform to reach for moderate voters. Instead of reaching for progressive urban voters, he seems to be pushing them away. A February Survey USA poll found McKenna beating Inslee in the Seattle metropolitan area by 46 to 38 percent. A May poll shows Inlsee slightly ahead, but far from majority support. If he keeps up this tack, Inslee will need—and is actively pursuing—an entirely different strategy to win the state. After all, Gregoire won in King County in 2004 with 58 percent of the vote—and she barely won the state. She won with a less narrow margin four years later with 64 percent of the vote. It appears that Inslee has nowhere near that support around here, and he's given up on Gregoire's electoral math. He's begging for moderate voters and praying that liberals simply hate Republican Rob McKenna. Let's see if it works. Let's see if Inslee can win without any genuine excitement from the Democrats' progressive base.