Locked in a with Republican Rob McKenna, Jay lnslee made a campaign stop on Mercer Island on Tuesday, visiting local at their weekly luncheon at the .
The Bainbridge Island Democrat addresses a packed room mainly on the issues of creating jobs, improving the state economy and boosting the quality of public education. After cracking a few jokes about basketball players literally making a "big impression"on him while in high school, he shared his three cornerstone "visions" of his campaign for governor: Growing the economy through innovation, improving education, and advancing Washington state "values".
On creating jobs and boosting the local economy, Inslee repeatedly stressed the importance of incentivizing the state’s "genius of innovation" and pointed out that Washington led the nation in innovation in aerospace and software — and can now do the same in clean energy, biotech, and life sciences. He recently championed many of the same ideas in a book, "Apollo's Fire", which detailed a vision about a clean energy industry in this state.
"Since then we have witnessed a Boeing 747 flying on bio-fuels grown in this state," Inslee said.
Inslee also said he supports job creation through making it easier for research and development in state universities to enter equity partnerships and go from lab to commercial. Other taxpayer funded programs and infrastructure projects like the Veterans Employment program and the Sound Transit Eastlink Light Rail (which he noted McKenna does not support) are important to growing Mercer Island and the Seattle area's local economy.
On education, the Democrat underlined the need for a "pipeline of people to produce a pipeline of products" and that the current system wasn't producing graduates ready for today's jobs. Washington ranks first in high tech jobs but ranks 46th in high tech graduates, so Inlsee said he'll push to increase STEM education from early childhood education through university, reduce the drop-out rate (currently at 20 percent) and spoke of a change of expectation to drive that improvement.
Seeking to underline the differences between McKenna and his positions in his campaign for governor, Inslee also pledged to "protect Washington values" like Environmental protection, tolerance, and diversity. He also pointed out that he is the only candidate to support equal marriage rights.
“I thought Jay presented a reasonable message about the need in Washington for job creation, innovation in teaching, and environmental protection," said Mercer Island Rotarian John Naye. "Given the short time allowed, his points were fairly general in nature, though he was able to give a few more specifics during the question period that followed.”
Mercer Island Rotarians Naye, Bob Weber and Dan Madigan tried to draw the candidate out on other hot election-year topics like the state budget and charter schools, and Inslee obliged.
He blamed unemployment as the root cause for the state's budget woes and said his job creation plan, along with adopting "lean management" styles like Boeing and Virginia Mason, embracing cost-reducing preventative health care, and eliminating corporate tax loopholes that do not create jobs should help create a sustainable budget.
On charter schools, Inslee stated that he doesn’t want to see money being siphoned from existing schools — but that he does support innovative teaching and curriculums.
Meeting with Inslee on Mercer Island earned rave reviews from several Rotary members, who expressed gratitude that he had taken the time to personally speak to them as they peppered him with questions while waiting in the the buffet line. Rotarian Carol Friends said it was a great way to "get a sense of the person."
"I appreciated Mr. Inslee’s statement that he will be the governor for the whole state," she said. "He appeared to be a person who brings people together."