Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee pledged to be “the governor for the firefighters” on Thursday, as he stopped and shook hands at the Aberdeen Fire Station.
About a dozen firefighters greeted him during the campaign stop, where the former congressman from Bainbridge Island met Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson and Fire Chief Tom Hubbard.
The local firefighters union is not making endorsements in the governor’s race, but Inslee pointed out that the Washington State Council of Firefighters — affiliated with firefighter unions — has endorsed his campaign. And, he noted, firefighters have supported him to such a degree that an off-duty firefighter often volunteers to be his driver to campaign events.
The council put out statements saying it supports Inslee’s approach to job creation and his support for public safety budgets.
“We also appreciate his years of unwavering support of firefighters and other public employees as a state legislator and congressman,” the council states on its website.
“The firefighters have a lot of voice in this campaign and I’ll be a good governor for you,” Inslee told the Aberdeen firefighters, who later gathered for a group photo in front of a firetruck.
Inslee’s stop in Aberdeen comes as voters were expected to get their ballots on Thursday. He faces Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
Simpson said that his appearance with Inslee shouldn’t be counted as an endorsement. Simpson said he’s actually part of the Mayors for McKenna group.
“It was nice for Congressman Inslee to come to see what the Harbor was about and meet some of the hard-working people in the community,” Simpson said. “It was a good visit.”
Inslee asked questions about state mandates and how he might be able to help in the future.
Aberdeen Firefighters Local No. 2639 President Dave Swinhart told Inslee about one recent change that requires firefighters to stay with a patient in need of catheterization all the way to a priority hospital in Olympia. The way the rules used to work, Swinhart explained, is that firefighter-paramedic could take a patient to Grays Harbor Community Hospital where they could be stabilized and then an off-duty paramedic could take over the duties of transporting to Olympia so that the on-duty paramedic could get back to other calls.
“This is statutory? Just in the rules?” Inslee asked, wondering if it could be changed to help rural areas.
“It is and we deal with this at least three times a month, if not more,” Swinhart said. “And it takes four hours out of our day. … It’s a bigger deal in rural areas because in urban areas you’re just minutes away from a hospital. Here, at Grays Harbor Community Hospital, they don’t have a cardiologist on call 24 hours a day.”
Inslee also met later with The Daily World’s editorial board. A story from that interview is forthcoming.
Inslee said he wishes he would have been on the Harbor a bit more during the campaign season and had a chance to meet local Democrats and potential voters. But, he noted, “this is a big state.”
For instance, he said, his Thursday morning started in Spokane, then it was on to Aberdeen before heading to Olympia and eventually to Seattle.
“It’s really hard because it’s a big state and everybody wants to have their candidate here every week, but it’s not physically possible,” Inslee said. “And it’s frustrating because they legitimately do want to see their candidate on a more regular basis. We’ve been down. We had a good meeting with the Port a while back. We’re going to try and come back as much as humanly possible. I will tell you this, I’m a small town guy. I grew up in Seattle, but we moved to Selah to raise three kids in a small town. I love small towns. It’s part of the reason I think I can be for economic development because it’s who I am and it’s what I’m like.”
Inslee said he’s disappointed with a decision from The Seattle Times on Wednesday to provide $75,750 in free advertising supporting McKenna, who also has received the endorsement from the paper. “I think if your paper followed that lead it would make a reporter’s job more difficult,” Inslee said. “I do think there’s an issue here for the communities to consider because papers play an important role in providing credible sources of information, and to the extent that people lose trust in that information (it) diminishes that utility and life’s hard enough already without having some trustworthy arbiter of the facts. And I do think this development causes legitimate concerns that way and some of the people who write for The Times are concerned because it makes their job harder.”
Grays Harbor Republican Chairwoman Kristine Lowder says that McKenna has proven himself on the Harbor by being a consistent presence, during both his time as attorney general and during his campaign for governor.
“The difference between Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee is indeed pretty black and white,” Lowder said. “For starters, Harborites don’t have to wish McKenna will come out here to do something. Rob McKenna has come out here to Elma, Ocean Shores and Aberdeen. His wife Marilyn was here for Loggers Playday and marched in the parade.”
Lowder said she feels McKenna will be better for business.
“Businesses are hurting because of Olympia’s over-regulation,” she said. ” Inslee wants to pile on more. While Inslee offers more of the same old, same old, McKenna’s focus is on tax and regulatory reform to boost hiring and throttle up an economy that’s as slow as a gimpy snail in molasses.”