Democratic congressman Jay Inslee entered the race for governor on June 27, which wasn't surprising. He's been telegraphing his plans to run ever since people began wondering about the likely 2012 gubernatorial matchup in this state.
What was surprising, however, was an announcement Inslee made on The Stranger's blog, Slog, a few days earlier.
Unlike Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, whose position on gay marriage is convoluted and ultimately in sync with Michele Bachmann's, Inslee's position on the issue, it turns out, is simple.
"Jay supports making same-sex marriage legal," said his political director, Joby Shimomura, in a June 23 statement to The Stranger. "After 38 years of marriage, he believes that no politician or government should deny his fellow citizens what he and Trudi have, which is a rewarding, stable, committed relationship. He also believes that legalizing same-sex marriage would not infringe on the ability of churches to maintain their own practices."
When asked in person, Inslee stood by his point at the campaign kickoff on June 27, three days after New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a same-sex marriage bill into law. "I believe in marriage equality," Inslee said bluntly. "I fundamentally believe that no government and no politician should deny any of my fellow Washingtonians the right to have what I have, which is a stable, committed, meaningful relationship." Equality for gay couples, he continued, is a "quintessential Washington value."
It was a new set of talking points from Inslee, who's been an advocate of gay rights in Congress but had never previously made clear his support of gay marriage. It also was a pretty gutsy move for a candidate about to jump into a statewide race in which he'll have to stump for votes in places far more socially conservative than his current congressional district (which covers Bainbridge Island, the northern part of the Kitsap Peninsula, and a wide swath around Edmonds and Bothell). Yet it has the potential to result in a huge shift for Washington State: Inslee would be our first governor to support legalizing same-sex marriage.
As for the politics of the move: Inslee will need to win big in King County in order to win the governor's race, and this could help him create a strong contrast between himself and McKenna—one that could be used to peel off a lot of King County voters who currently think of McKenna as a reasonable, likable moderate.
Additional reporting by Goldy.