SEATTLE — Former President Bill Clinton came to Seattle on Saturday hoping to perform the same trick for Washington's Democratic candidate for governor that he did for President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention: giving a big boost in a tight race.
Jay Inslee, a seven-term congressman, is facing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna in what is considered one of the closest gubernatorial races in the country this year. Heading into the weekend, each had raised about $8.6 million, but Clinton's appearance added $750,000 to Inslee's tally, his campaign said.
Clinton spoke to more than 3,000 people at the Washington state convention center, telling them that Inslee has the right vision for creating clean energy and biotechnology jobs. He praised what he described as Inslee's 75-point plan for the economy, which includes creating a state office for economic competitiveness, allowing workers to create "lifelong learning accounts" with matching contributions from their employers, and giving tax breaks to IT and biotech startups.
"It makes an enormous amount of sense," Clinton said. "If you make Jay Inslee your governor, he'll try to do every single one of those 75 things on that list he gave you."
Tickets started at $150, and attendees could get their picture taken with the former president for $5,000.
Clinton devoted a solid portion of his 20-minute talk to climate issues, noting that some Pacific and Caribbean nations most immediately threatened by global warming "are not mocking the rising of the seas." He praised Inslee's book on clean technology, "Apollo's Fire," for laying out a strategy to boost the economy while fighting climate change.
He also hit on many of the themes he discussed during his speech at the convention, saying no president could have fixed the mess Obama inherited in just four years and criticizing Republicans for attempting to cut the debt by reducing taxes on the wealthy.
For his part, Inslee described the move toward clean energy jobs as not just a job opportunity, but a "destiny" that would unite the farmers of Eastern Washington with the engineers of Seattle.
"We can never accept a second-place finish for the state of Washington, particularly when it comes to clean energy," he said.
Other speakers, including Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, criticized Republican views on abortion, health care and environmental protection. They portrayed McKenna as a polarizing figure who opposes gay marriage, compared him to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and noted that he joined other Republican attorneys general in unsuccessfully trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act.
Randy Pepple, McKenna's campaign manager, called those arguments tired.
"Jay Inslee has no achievements they can cite. In 15 years in Congress, he achieved nothing — not a single substantial piece of legislation," Pepple said. "The last thing we need is to bring that type of partisan D.C. politics to Washington state.
"Rob McKenna has got a plan that focuses on making it easier for the private sector to create jobs," he said. "Jay Inslee's plan starts with creating a new state agency. We think that's the wrong way to go."
Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle