Rep. Jay Inslee from Washington State’s 1st Congressional District will finally make his official entry into the race for governor of Washington sometime next week, sources are reporting.

The 2012 race will be Inslee’s second attempt at an election for governor. In 1996, when Washington State still held partisan primary elections, he was defeated by then-King County Executive Gary Locke for the Democratic nomination.

Republicans see his failure to connect with Democrats statewide and a record of tax-and-spend solutions as a significant weakness in a race with Republican Rob McKenna that will likely be won by the candidate who best articulates a plan to fix the serious fiscal problems facing the state.

Washington State Republican Party chair Kirby Wilbur told NW Daily Marker that he still does not understand why Inslee has chosen to run again for a position he has failed to win before:

I wonder why Jay Inslee wants to run for Governor. Is he fearful of being primaried by Dennis Kucinich? Is he tired of being non-productive 3,000 miles away from home and would rather be closer to home and get nothing done? He’s lost for Congress and Governor before, since this is a Three Strikes and You’re Out state, is he looking for his third strike?

The coalition of Republican governors had a similar head-scratching reaction to news of Inslee’s candidacy.

“Jay Inslee failed the last time he ran for governor and he’s failed to bring meaningful reform to Washington, D.C. as a Congressman,” said Republican Governors Association spokesman Mike Schrimpf. “Voters won’t trust him to hold state government accountable and fix the broken system in Olympia.”

On the bright side for Democrats, Inslee’s announcement will finally tear the gag off the field of Democratic suitors to fill his open seat. Until now, Republican James Watkins—Inslee’s challenger in 2010—has been in the race and has been able to take advantage of his position as the sole GOP candidate in the race to organize support for his campaign while Democrats are still sorting out their ticket and diluting resources.

State Rep. Roger Goodman (D) former state representative Laura Ruderman are already in the race, a list of other speculated contestants running under the Democratic banner makes the field crowded, if not downright claustrophobic.

State Rep. Marko Liias also introduced his name into the conversation in May, but held off on doing any fundraising until Inslee formally announced for governor.

But the list of Democratic ‘maybes’ also includes relative heavy hitters, including former 3rd District U.S. Rep. Brian Baird and current Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich.

None other than Dwight Pelz, Washington State Democratic Party chair, has told reporters that he is opposed to “carpetbaggers” like Baird or Kucinich running to replace Inslee. Pelz has not commented on Inslee’s own carpetbagging path, a trail on which Inslee abandoned Eastern Washington after losing the 4th District in 1994 then ran in the 1st District seat in Western Washington four years later.

Baird was reported to have moved from his home in Southwestern Washington to a residence in the boundaries of the 1st, leading to speculation at the time that he might be eyeing a run should Inslee elect to step in the race for governor.

Baird still sits on campaign coffers holding $451,000. Even if he does not run, he certainly could influence state politics in 2012 and stick around as a potential candidate of the future. Kirby Wilbur told The Columbian if Baird sits this one out, it doesn’t mean that he’s out of Washington’s politics for good:

Chairman Kirby Wilbur said if a Republican wins Inslee’s seat in 2012 then forces in the Democratic Party may ask Baird to try and recapture it in 2014.

“That’s going to be tempting. I don’t know if he’d give into temptation,” Wilbur said. “Once it gets into your blood, it’s hard to get out.”


[photo image: flickr]