In an interview, Gov. Inslee quotes Harvey Milk and tells The Stranger to get on its high horse.
In an interview, Gov. Inslee quotes Harvey Milk, slams the "inhumane narcissist in the White House," and tells The Stranger to get on its high horse.

Governor Jay Inslee stopped by our office on Monday to pitch us on his signature carbon tax proposal, which faces a steep climb to passage in Olympia. We ended up chatting with the governor for an hour on a wide range of issues, including car tab fees, clemency for marijuana convictions, immigration debacles, which gubernatorial elections to watch out for in 2018, and what he thinks of Republican Dino Rossi.

A slightly edited transcript of our conversation follows after the jump. Or, if you’re in a hurry, skip around our chat with these links:

Inslee makes his case for a $10-per-ton tax on carbon fuels.

Inslee addresses questions on what his carbon tax plan does for those most impacted by climate change.

Which Seattle Democrats still aren’t on board with Inslee’s proposal? Who needs to speak up?

What’s keeping Inslee from vacating marijuana convictions for Washingtonians, as Seattle is moving to do?

What does Inslee have to say about Facebook’s showdown with Seattle over its non-compliance with local election transparency laws?

Would Inslee sign a bill that reduces car tab fees, which are supposed to fund the light rail expansion?

What has Inslee learned since the Seattle Times revealed that the Department of Licensing was giving up information to ICE?

What gubenatorial races should we watch out for in 2018. (Inslee is chair of the Democratic Governors Association.)

Why won’t he endorse a primary candidate in the race for the 8th Congressional District?
And what does he think of Republican candidate Dino Rossi?

* * *

GOV. JAY INSLEE: For starters, I got this for you guys. I just read your Valentine's Issue.

Thanks Jay.
Thanks Jay.

STEVEN HSIEH: That's so sweet.

HEIDI GROOVER: Yeah, it's really, um, yeah—

SH: Governor, last year around this time you downplayed any thoughts of running for president. I was wondering if that has change over the last year?

GUV: No. [Laughs] That's not why I came here today. No, I have a job to do here.


ELI SANDERS: I'm interested in hearing about the carbon tax. Why don't we start with that?

GUV: Thanks. I came here to recruit you. Harvey Milk used to say, "I came here to recruit you." This is absolutely an existential threat to our state. It is consuming our forest with fires. It is acidifying our waters. It is increasing rates of respiratory problems and asthma in our kids. We need to attack this problem, which is carbon pollution. We have a statutory requirement to do so. The legislature passed it nine years ago, but we have not taken measures to meet that statutory goal to reduce carbon pollution. This year, I'm proposing a way that will actually do that.

Basically, what it would do is create a billion-dollar fund to help Washingtonians have access to clean energy in ways that would reduce carbon pollution and maintain our job creation engine in our state. That fund would basically allow Washingtonians to get access to clean energy sources, to have increased insulation in their homes, to give additional research in new clean energy, and help businesses deploy more energy efficient resources. It would also help communities that are damaged by carbon pollution and climate change become more sustainable and more resilient. It also has a provision that would help low income people with solar energy costs.

It's financed by a carbon tax. If you want less of something, it's better to tax what you don't like than something you do like. We all don't like carbon pollution. The carbon tax would be placed on the upstream of suppliers and producers of carbon fuels, by and large. It would not be directly on consumers.

It's a fairly modest figure. Our proposal was for $20-a-ton. At the moment, the bill is at $10-a-ton. That may change. That's a fairly modest price signal. It would be on the lower end of the spectrum of carbon pricing systems around the world. And we don't believe it would be a damage to the state's economy. In fact, it would help it, because what we find is that places that do this actually have some of the most robust economies in the United States. We think it's a reasonable approach, a very Washington approach. It gives a lot of flexibility to businesses on how they respond to it and will help our job creating engine that we still have here.

Clean energy jobs in Washington State are growing twice as fast as the economy at large. We're already experiencing great economic growth as a result of clean energy. This will accelerate and enhance it. This bill is getting a lot more traction than it ever has before. And the reason is threefold.

Number one: People are understanding how dire this is now because they're experiencing it firsthand. It used to be a graph. Now it's ash from the burning Cascade Mountains. It's seeing your neighbor's house burned down in Wenatchee. It's seeing the extreme weather events, which are hitting us as well as the rest of the world. It's now something that people are experiencing in their own lives.

Number two: We have engendered a lot more support from the business community because they have understand that this is the least costly way to do business. This is the least-cost policy response to carbon pollution. I spent two days in Eastern Washington talking with business leaders about this and the utilities have actually done a study of this and concluded that a carbon tax is the most efficient, least-cost policy to deal with carbon pollution. They're embracing that. They also see an initiative coming down the tracks and they would like to be engaged in the discussion to get a good policy. So, there's a realistic chance of passage. [EDS: We never got around to the third reason.]

ES: In my memory, the only time that we have opposed anything related to carbon tax is Initiative 732. That actually really sharply divided the office—some people joined a dissent against I-732, others were part of the Stranger Election Control Board majority endorsing I-732. So, I just want to remember where you were on Initiative 732 in 2016.

GUV: Well I was not supportive, if I recall. It had some flaws. It would have taken money out of the general fund and it did not produce an investment vehicle. It did not produce the things that actually reduce carbon. At these levels—the reality is, when you have a price signal at these levels, which are quite low, they have quite a limited effect on carbon pollution. What drives carbon pollution reduction is investments, not so much the price signal. The price signal is so low, it's almost like pixie dust. So, what drives the savings are getting people to have more insulation in their homes—we don't want to waste electricity—more access to solar energy, ways to prevent our forests from burning down, getting people more access to electrification of transportation fleets, which is actually a realistic thing.


ES: One part of the big battle royales that we had here was a concern among a segment of the environmental community that I-732 failed to adequately address the needs of those hurting the most, those most adversely affected by climate change—and generally that is communities of color. Do you feel like your current proposal directs resources at the communities most likely to be adversely affected by climate change, and in a way that addresses the concerns two years ago around I-732?

GUV: Yes, and in a variety of ways. First off, you have to understand, Who are the greatest victims of climate change? It's people of low-income groups and communities of color, because they're living next to freeways and lower rental properties. They're living next to the toxic stew coming out of industrial plants. Those are the communities who are first affected by carbon pollution.

You've probably heard my story about how, years ago on the banks of the Duwamish, I ran into a young 14-year-old woman. Her name was Jasmine. She said that she was 11 before she found out there were some kids who don't have asthma. All her friends had asthma.

So, she actually went through and did her own sort of seventh-grade epidemiological study and found out that asthma rates—every time you get a quarter mile closer to the freeway, asthma rates like double. And UW has confirmed this.

If you ever look at Seattle's cancer map, it's pretty stunning, the cancer rates. The closer you go to a freeway, the cancer rates go up. So, when you fight carbon pollution, intrinsically you're helping these communities because those are the ones that are always the first victims of pollution. It's always been that way, and it is in this case.

That's the one that's the most important thing. But we also have a provision in there that says a portion of revenue is used for low-income folks to help ameliorate price increases associated with this, and it's likely that there will be some. They're very modest. At $10 a ton, it's less than 10 cents a gallon of gasoline. So, we do have a provision to recycle some of that back to the low-income communities.

We also have a provision that will focus some of these funds on helping impacted communities who have been impacted by forest fires, floods, and issues like that. It also helps some of these communities that are most at risk. So, yes, wholeheartedly. But again, the fundamental thing is, and the thing that we all gotta focus on, is this is going to swallow us all alive. This is an equal opportunity monster. It will swallow everybody. Everybody's got an interest in solving this, and I hope that people are going to pitch in.

HG: What’s been the communication with Alliance for Clean Jobs and Energy?

GUV: We work very closely. I talked to them every few days myself. I've been engaged in that effort for years.

HG: Are they still working on an initiative?

GUV: Yes, they are. So, it's highly probable that there would be an initiative if the legislature does not act this year and the initiative and the bill are very substantially similar. There are some differences on the margin—and some of those things are a little more sophisticated or acute in the legislature because the legislature is the body where you would do those very sophisticated turnings of the gears.

That's why some in the business community prefer the legislative approach, and that's why we're moving forward.

SH: This ten-dollar-per-ton proposal that's moving through committee right now is different and lower than your original proposal. Are you still going to be able to do what you want to do with this reduced proposal?

GUV: You would be doing the same things, but less, at these numbers. Our number was essentially calibrated to meet the state's carbon reduction targets. We have a target that was established nine years ago and mine was developed to meet that target. At lesser figures, you get less bang for your buck, obviously. There is a very significant chance that the number will go up as the bill moves through the legislature, and the bill is structured so there are step-by-step increases—is it two dollars a year?


GUV: Yes. So there's a proposal that it will go up two dollars a year up to a maximum of 30 dollars a ton. It will increase over time. Now, this is not the only policy we have. We have other policies to work on as well to reduce carbon pollution, including a transportation budget that has great stuff for [INAUDIBLE] and can give people a chance to do light rail and buses and, some day, high-speed rail.

SH: You said the carbon tax has a good shot of passing. People who cover Olympia more closely than we do paint a less rosy picture. Democrats say they're voting for your bill in committee just because they want to keep the conversation going, but they might not vote for it once it reaches the floor. What is keeping some of these Democrats from coming on board, and how will you persuade them to vote for the bill?

GUV: Because The Stranger hasn't got on their high horse and told them to stand up on their two feet and quit being wussies and actually pass the bill in Olympia.

And I'm serious about this. Where have you guys been? This thing is eating us alive. You have most of your readership thinking this is a big deal, maybe the biggest thing in their lives. We need you guys to get going. We need Seattle progressive people who read Slog to demand that their legislators stand up.


HG: What Seattle democrats are not on board with the plan? Aren’t you dealing with suburban moderate Democrats, and not Seattle?

GUV: Not entirely. We need votes from all sources of the compass. I mean, we need people who are progressive in this community to stand up in our caucus, to say this is absolutely fundamental to the Democratic party and is fundamental for the Republican party as well. They understand the business opportunities here as well. But we need a hue and cry. Major social change does not happen quietly, or in a vacuum or without people demanding it. And we need more people from this community to demand that the legislature produce on climate change. It should be, "Don't come home without it. Don't expect to get a Valentine from us unless you bring home a climate change policy.”

ES: So, name names. We've got in this community the Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp. Is he is promising you that this will pass the House?

GUV: No.

ES: So, you want him to bring it home?

GUV: I think that would be wonderful if we had leadership in both chambers actually bring things home. Reuven Carlyle has been tremendous. Guy Palumbo has done tremendous work in assembling in the Senate the votes that will be required. But we need help in both chambers, and we need people with forceful voices to say we're going to get this job done.

Now, we've heard forceful voices on other issues. We need forceful voices from this community saying, "Don't come march in our parades unless you're going to bring home a climate change bill." And that's the kind of message that we need if we're going to pass this in Olympia, because you don't do this without that kind of a forceful voice from this community.

ES: It sounds like you're saying is that Frank Chopp has not been not a forceful voice for this.

GUV: What I'm saying is we need forceful voices in this community, in both chambers, to get the votes are necessary—including from the progressive community. That's what I'm saying.

ES: And what about in the Senate? I mean we've obviously got a lot of Democratic lawmakers in the Senate from Seattle and surrounding area. Who's not making a lot of noise in support of this?

GUV: You know, I didn't come to name names. That was the McCarthy era and I'm past naming names. I believe Washington state is going to achieve its goal. It's going to require a heightened level of attention and commitment and vociferous table-thumping to get this job done, including from the progressive community in the city of Seattle. We need that.

Now, we may also need a couple Republican votes and we're working on those. I had a really good meeting in Eastern Washington with some folks who understand the job creation opportunities in clean energy. So we're working with them to acquire that. We have some public utilities that have recognized why a carbon tax made sense. So as a result of all this, we're getting some possible Republican votes as well. But we need more voices.

HG: But doesn't that say something about the party, or the leadership of the party in this state, that you're getting Republicans but the Democrat budget writer told the Seattle Times we shouldn't intend any new revenue in the budget?

GUV: It means that we're in the middle of a process. It means we're in the middle of the game. We're not in the beginning. We're not in the end. A lot of people say the future holds different results. I think that's the case.

So, what you're finding here is a recognition of an emerging reality people have realized before, which is that the business community has now understood that there is going to be a climate change policy in the State of Washington by initiative or otherwise. And it's better to have it by legislature than an initiative.

As a result, you're finding some people who are attentive to the business community—they are supportive of this issue. People are still responding to two years ago or a year ago. This is a new day. This is a new reality. People are actually demanding actions as well. So, I remain optimistic about the opportunity of getting this through. If Slog starts helping us out.

ES: One thing that we have historically done very well is holding people, particularly local representatives, to account and calling them out by name when they're not in the right spot on a particular bill or policy. So that's why we're trying to get more clarity from you—because you are in the catbird's seat here—on who the obstacles are.

GUV: So how can I help you?

ES: Who are the obstacles?

GUV: Read the newspaper. Just read the newspaper. Read the comments. See who's introducing a bill. Joe Fitzgibbon has been tremendous, by the way, in the house. He has been a tremendous leader on this. Gael Tarleton has been tremendous on this. They are really advancing the ball. They're also advancing alternative policies that may not be as beneficial as a carbon tax, but are useful as well. They’re doing some other things as well.

I guess what I would suggest is people need to ask their legislators to make a commitment to fight for climate change legislation—and we want everybody to make that commitment. And anybody who doesn't make that commitment, Slog can report that. That's the best way I can say that.

ES: Is Manka Dhingra supportive?

GUV: She's fantastic. She's tremendous. I've rarely seen such a talent so impressive.


SH: Our mayor announced last week that Seattle's going to move forward to vacate these misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions under our city code. That’s gonna barely make a dent as far as convictions in the State of Washington go. You said last week that it's worth looking into doing the same thing on a state level. What's stopping you?

GUV: We don't know whether what's in the realm of the possible at the moment. We don't even know if have all the convictions in any central database. These are largely county-by-county prosecutions or city-by-city prosecutions. The state isn't actually the group that prosecutes. They're local prosecuting attorneys. First off, we need to do what's in the realm of possible. There was a bill in the legislature that would actually give judges the ability or direction to vacate these, to go into court and vacate them. That might be the right way to do it. We're also taking a look at if there is a way to have some kind of expedited pardon capability. I've pardoned several people for misdemeanor marijuana convictions who needed to get it expunged—

SH: Three, right?

GUV AIDE: It is three.

GUV: One hundred percent who have requested it. Let's put it that way. People who needed it to get their job clearance or something. So, we're wondering: Could we have an expedited system where people could move to get a pardon for those. We’re looking at different ways to generally go about that.

SH: And you couldn't do proactive pardons? They all have to be requested?

GUV: I don't know the answer to that question. Could I go out and search all of the criminal convictions over the last 20 years and try to find misdemeanors to pardon? Maybe, but just from a resource standpoint, we probably don't have resources to do that at the moment.

ES: Is that what Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan did?

HG: That's what she's saying she's going to do—vacate all the misdemeanor prosecutions.

SH: What if we did that work? And we identified that convictions. Would you pardon the people then?

GUV: I would certainly consider it. Now, you do have a—look, what if it's one misdemeanor conviction tied to a triple murder? Sometimes these things are tied to other crimes. But if it's simple—a person has a recreational marijuana ten conviction years ago, then I don't see a reason to maintain those. But, as I've said, we need to have some process to figure out how to do it. We haven't figured out the right approach to this yet. That's the bottom line.


ES: I've been paying close attention to the standoff between Seattle and Facebook over political ads online. Has this reached you? Are you aware of this?

GUV: No, I haven't been. The headlines are about as far as got on this particular issue. I have to drill down.

ES: We got a statement from your office. I got a statement from Jaime Smith about this, and basically the issue is that the digital platforms—Facebook, Google, others—are not currently complying with state law and city law that mandates quite a bit of disclosure around political ads.

And we're in a unique position in this state because we actually have a law on the books and it's got a pretty interesting history. You know who Jolene Unsoeld is, right? And you know about her leadership in the 1972 initiative to the people that created the Public Disclosure Commission and our first real transparency laws in this state? So, she was a big part of that initiative, which passed with 72 percent of the votes in Washington State. And, like, one sub-clause in that people's initiative, which has now been the law for 40-plus years, says that commercial advertisers who sell political ads targeting Washington State elections have a duty to report, upon request, details about "the exact nature and extent" of those ads. So in the past, it would have been, you know, you walk into a television station or newspapers and see their books of account. I tried to do this with Facebook in November. I walked into their Seattle office. I gave them a copy of the city law. And I wasn't shown any books of account. And that is what precipitated this whole thing. My simple request.

GUV: So what is Facebook's response?

ES: Right now, it's in the court Wayne Barnett, who is the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission director—and the Public Disclosure Commission in Olympia is watching very closely what happens with Seattle. And, by the way, this is all in the broader context of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the fact that people want greater disclosure by the tech giants. There is an "Honest Ads Act" that's been proposed in D.C, and is supported by Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, but it's gone nowhere.

So, anyway, all this larger context—and I'm trying to just get disclosure for digital ads in local Seattle elections for 2017. I haven't gotten it. Wayne Barnett then sent a letter on behalf of the City of Seattle saying, "Sorry, this is a law. You've got to turn this over." That was December 12th. Here we are in February. And, long story short, after Facebook and Google requested extensions, missed a deadline, blah, blah, blah, Facebook sent a disclosure to the City of Seattle on February 2nd or 3rd that was just totally insufficient.

And so the next step—Wayne Barnett has declared Facebook in violation of city law, and the next logical step, and they're not saying what they're going to do, but the next logical step would be charges and fines. And so, anyway, all of this comes in the broader context, as I said, of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the vastly increasing spending on political ads online. I just looked at the increase in Seattle—spending by political campaigns on digital ads has increased 5,000 percent over the last 4 years. And regulation and enforcement of existing laws has not caught up. So, I've been doing a lot of explaining to people what's going on here, because it's kind of complicated and it traces to a forty-year-old law.

GUV: This shows I never come here and not learn something. So, now I've learned something important. I've also learned that this is a nest of treasonous traitors if you're asserting the Russians hacked into our campaigns.

ES: Not the first time we've been called a nest of treasonous traitors.

GUV: This is really interesting and I'm going to become educated about it.

ES: Let me just ask you a broad question here: Do you think that digital platforms like Facebook that accept money to run political ads targeting Washington State elections should have to disclose the source of funding for those ads and "the exact nature and extent," as state law says, of those ads?

GUV: First of all, I'm going to give you a caveat. Because what I know about this law is basically what you just shared with me. My immediate reaction is, this is a platform that, it seems to me, has the same character as other distribution networks. So, it seems to me that the general thrust would apply. You've got to take that with some grain of salt, because maybe there's something I'm not understanding about this particular circumstance. That's my reaction. And you've pointed out something important, which is obviously we're moving these resources toward online platforms. And so, we ought to be attentive to this and next time you and I talk, I will have a more intelligent response to your important question.

ES: Senator Palumbo, who you just praised a minute ago, has a bill that he ran by your office that, just to remove any doubt, would add digital platforms explicitly into state law—but, already, state law says clearly that it applies to any "means of mass communication," which obviously the digital platforms are.

GUV: I hope we're going to talk about net neutrality, too. We could really use some help on this. The bill's moving, but we have to keep the attention on this issue. I've been fighting this for about ten years now, and I hope we can push it across the finish line this year. It's very important for a million reasons, and I hope you guys can keep writing about it.

ES: And this is the same phenomenon, basically. A local attempt to do what has failed at the national level?

GUV: Correct, and we tried it at the national level when I was in Congress. I was one of the more vocal voices on it, and now we're trying to do the same thing here. Not just from a statute. We're also looking at procurement policies. So we think we can influence this through our procurement policies, because we buy huge amounts of these services. If the state can say, "We're going to shoot the bottom line if you don't provide net neutrality to the people of the State of Washington..." So, we're moving on multiple fronts on this. The legislation, I think has passed out of committee?

GUV AIDE: It passed the House.

GUV: It’s out of the House? Good.

SH: We've covered this, but are due for an update.


HG: I just have two questions. If a bill that changes that car tab valuation but does not backfill that money for Sound Transit is on your desk, will you sign it?

GUV: We want to make sure that we can maintain the ability to fulfill the voters' desires, which is to finish that line. We've got to remain committed to that. I would evaluate any proposal on whether it finds a way to, in fact, fulfill that commitment. I haven't had a chance to look at the details of what's moving at the moment, so I can't tell you whether that does or does not do that. I'm told there is some backfill from Department of Transportation, land which is essentially surplus, which would backfill some of these funds. But that is not a—I don't have the total details on that.

HG: But the bills that have been moving the quickest don't have any backfill. They just restructure the evaluation in a way that effectively cuts—

GUV: My understanding is that somewhere in this legislative process, there will be some backfill. My understanding is it will come from a DOT surplus fund of assets we're not using essentially.

HG: Would you commit to not signing a bill if it did not include that backfill?

GUV: No, because I think through these things and if it's connected to a thousand other things and cures cancer at the same time—sometimes, if it cures cancer, I might sign it.

HG: But that's not the situation—

GUV: I am committed to getting this job done. And I've been quite vocal with legislative leaders about it. So that's why I'm glad DOT, as I understand, has come through.

HG: Not a policy issue but, a political issue. The chair of the King County Democrats is facing some allegations of harassing an employee and some people in the party are calling on him to resign. Do you think that he should resign?

GUV: I haven't heard any details on this, so I can't comment except that this is a major problem and we're finally grappling with this and women are finally being heard and finally have the confidence to step forward and that's a general thing that goes through every single institution in American society and I'm glad it's happening.


SH: What did you learn after the breakdown earlier this year with the Department of Licensing sharing some information with ICE that could reveal somebody's immigration status?

GUV: I learned that databases are really difficult. The department failed in its expectation that this would not be shared. We, I believe, have a fix we should be confident in in that regard, which we acted on immediately as soon as we found out about this.

But I also learned that we have to be more diligent through all of our databases. We're in the process now of scrubbing all of our databases. We're doing a real thorough analysis of all of our databases through multiple agencies. This requires some diligence because we have found that our databases have unexpected connections with others and you have to be extremely acute and sensitive to drill down several layers of these databases to see how they are connected. We're in the process of doing that. Fortunately, we have not found any other leakage so that's good news so far.

But we're not done with that. Because frequently you'll find databases that link up with others. You'll find that Database A won't be linked up to ICE, but if you go to Database B and C and there's some connection with the federal government, that becomes more difficult.

And this is challenging because we have all these connections with the federal government. We have connections about Medicaid reimbursement. We have connections about foster care kids. We have connections about criminal records. So, we're really working to scrub that to make sure that something like this won't happen again.

This is maddening and frustrating to me because we've been fighting the president so hard on his multiple assaults on tolerance and justice and fairness and humanity.

SH: And just last week there was this story in Tukwila of this man who was turned in to ICE on a warrant after he made a call to the local PD. What can the state do to discourage local law enforcement from communicating with ICE?

GUV: We don't really have authority to command local law enforcement. Of course, it would require a judicial warrant in that regard. I would just tell you, from the operational aspect though, the local officials have such a burden because of Congressional failure here.

We have a thousand places where there's interaction between state or local governments and the federal government, and every single one of these is problematic because Congress has totally failed to do immigration reform. And because of Congressional failure, you have all of these interactions now that are so problematic.

The reason I say that is it's a little frustrating that local officials bear the brunt of this problem because Congress hasn't done their job. And Trump is callously indifferent to human suffering. And so it's maddening.

Now, the best we can do is to try to have as formal a process as we can in this circumstance—one would have wanted the situation to be that you don't turn that person over unless it's the actual judicial warrant for arrest. Now, if there is a judicial warrant—we're limited to some degree. If ICE gets a judicial warrant, the local community is limited in that regard. As I said, we're going through a very detailed assessment of our databases to see that something like that doesn't happen by accident.

But we need Congress to fix this underlying problem. It's going to be fraught. As long as we have an inhumane narcissist in the White House, we're going to have this situation. So it's very frustrating. That's why I hope that this immigration reform, you know, if there's some miracle, it produces some immigration reform this week, it would be a great thing.


SH: You're the chair of the Democratic Governors Association. What are you doing to prep for 2018 and what are the races to look at?

GUV: Well, I'm very excited about this because the revulsion against what's going on in the White House is so strong across the nation that it gives a lot of opportunities for people to elect good, economically growth-oriented Democratic governors.

We believe that there will be races that heretofore would've been a surprise—that now can actually be competitive, in addition to the obvious ones of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Florida. There may be possibilities in South Carolina, Georgia. We don't know. Some new places may open up in a competitive field. As a result, my obligation becomes to help this organization succeed. We got a ton of great, really qualified women candidates and we've never seen such an outpouring of people who want to run. It's the Manka Dhingra syndrome.

We were not familiar with her before she decided to run. Now she's a fantastic senator, and won, and took away a Republican seat.

SH: Do you think you'll be traveling or campaigning for any of these battleground races you're talking about?

GUV: I do travel some for the DGA and its more building infrastructure than necessarily going into places to campaign there. My job is more infrastructure development for the organization.


ES: Closer to home, we've got this race in the 8th District for retiring Congressman Reichert's seat. I think two-time gubernatorial loser Dino Rossi is in for the Republicans. Gubernatorial loser versus a whole bunch of Democrats. Anything to say to people about Rossi and what kind of Democrat we need?

GUV: We have great candidates. We're going to have a great candidate there. I'm very confident of that.

ES: You're not endorsing?

GUV: No, I will not be doing endorsements in Democratic primaries.

SH: Why not?

GUV: Oh, a thousand reasons, but let me finish this. At all levels of government, we need to have an understanding that American democracy itself is under assault out of the White House. We have a person there that very fundamentally threatens the continued stability of our nation and at every level we need people who will be willing to stand up against that.

This is not a place where you can say, "Oh I'm only running for Congress in the 8th, so I don't need to take a position on Donald Trump." You do have to take position on Trump and they're going to put up a candidate who is going to be a lackey for Donald Trump. He's already demonstrated that.

You have Donald Trump make a reference to these nations that were not Norway because they didn't look blue-eyed, and he used some language that is offensive to anybody of any race and of any place of origin, and their candidate said nothing. You cannot have somebody from the 8th District who isn't going to be willing to stand up for basic human values. And he's not going to be acceptable for that reason.

ES: And Steven asked why you're not endorsing.

GUV: As sort of titular leader of the party, you really need to maintain a steady neutrality on these things, both as DGA chair and as governor. When there's been an incumbent, sometimes I've endorsed. Where there's been the primaries where I've had a working relationship with an incumbent officeholder, I have—otherwise, I just largely have not. But we have really good candidates in that 8th District race.