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Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

23rd Governor of Washington, United States
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Politician Lawyer
Countries United States of America
A.K.A. Jay Robert Inslee
Gender male
Birth February 9, 1951 (Seattle)
Education University of Washington
Jay Inslee
The details

Jay Robert Inslee (born February 9, 1951) is an American politician, attorney and member of the Democratic Party who has served as the 23rd Governor of Washington since January 2013.
Born in Seattle, Inslee graduated from the University of Washington and Willamette University College of Law. He served in the Washington House of Representatives from 1989 to 1993 and then represented Washington's 4th congressional district, which included parts of the state around Yakima, in the United States House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995. Defeated for re-election in 1994, Inslee returned to private practice and then ran for Governor in the 1996 election, coming fifth in the blanket primary ahead of the general election, which was won by Democrat Gary Locke. Inslee then served as regional director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton.
Inslee was elected back to the House of Representatives in 1998, this time for Washington's 1st congressional district, which included Seattle's northern suburbs in King, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties. He was re-elected six times before announcing that he was running for Governor again on June 27, 2011. He resigned from Congress on March 20, 2012, in order to focus on his campaign. He defeated Republican Rob McKenna, the Attorney General of Washington, in the general election by 52% to 48%. Inslee was re-elected to a second term in 2016, defeating Republican Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant by 54% to 46%.

Early life, education, and law career

Early portrait of Inslee

Inslee was born in Seattle, the son of Adele A. (née Brown) and Frank E. Inslee. He graduated from Seattle's Ingraham High School, the University of Washington (Bachelor of Arts, Economics), and Willamette University College of Law. Inslee has attributed his interest in the outdoors to the years his parents spent leading student groups on wilderness conservation trips in cooperation with the SCA in Mount Rainier in the 1960s and 1970s. He practiced law for ten years in Selah, Washington, a city just north of Yakima.

Washington House of Representatives (1989–1993)


Inslee ran for the Washington House of Representatives in 1988 after incumbent Republican State Representative Jim Lewis resigned to become political commentator of a Yakima television station. He was inspired to run after the state legislature undermined a school bond that he had worked to pass after years of failure. In the blanket primary, Republican Lynn Carmichael ranked first with 43% and Inslee ranked second with 40%. Republican Glen Blomgren ranked third with 17%. In the general election, Inslee defeated Carmichael 52%-48%. In 1990, Inslee won re-election with 62% of the vote.


In the Washington state legislature, Inslee pursued a bill to provide initial funding to build five branch campuses of the Washington State University system. Although the bill failed, Inslee’s tenacity made an impression on House Speaker Joe King, who said: "He's not afraid to incur the wrath of the speaker or the caucus." In 1991, Inslee voted for a state energy policy which required the state to devise a cost-effective energy strategy, and also that state agencies and school districts must pursue and maintain energy-efficient operation of their facilities.

Committee assignments

He served on the Higher Education and Housing Committees.

U.S. House of Representatives (1993-1995)

Jay Inslee and his wife Trudi Inslee meet with the Dalai Lama.


In 1992, he ran for and was elected to the United States Congress representing Washington's 4th congressional district in the central-eastern part of the state. His home area of the district, anchored by Yakima, is relatively rural and agriculture-based, while the southeastern part of his district is more focused on research and nuclear waste disposal, anchored by the Tri-Cities.
He lost his bid for re-election in the Republican Revolution of 1994 in a rematch against his 1992 opponent, Doc Hastings. Inslee attributed his 1994 defeat in large part to his vote for the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.


In Congress Inslee passed the Yakima River Enhancement Act, a bill long held up in Congress by brokering a breakthrough with irrigators and wildlife advocates. He also helped to open Japanese markets to American apples, and fund and oversee the nation's biggest nuclear waste site at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington.

Committee assignments

Official 109th Congressional photo

In his first congressional tenure, he was placed on the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture to protect the district's rural areas and the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to protect the Hanford Reservation.

Inter-congressional years (1995–1999)

Inslee moved to Bainbridge Island, a suburb of Seattle, and briefly resumed the practice of law.

1996 gubernatorial election

He ran for Governor of Washington in 1996 and lost in the blanket primary. Democratic King County Executive and former State Representative Gary Locke ranked first with 24% of the vote. Democratic Mayor of Seattle Norm Rice ranked second with 18%, but didn't qualify for the general election. Republican State Senator Ellen Craswell ranked third with 15%, and became the Republican candidate to qualify for the general election. Republican State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Dale Foreman ranked fourth with 13%. Inslee ranked fifth with 10%. No other candidate on the ballot received double digits.

Clinton administration

After Inslee's failed 1996 bid for Governor of Washington, President of the United States Bill Clinton appointed him regional director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Inslee was once touted as a candidate for United States Secretary of the Interior and for United States Secretary of Energy in the Presidential transition of Barack Obama.

U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2012)


Inslee as a representative

Inslee ran again for Congress in 1998, this time in the 1st congressional district against two-term incumbent Rick White. His campaign attracted national attention when he became the first Democratic candidate to air television ads attacking his opponent and the Republican congressional leadership for the Lewinsky scandal. Inslee won with 49.8% of the vote to White's 44.1%; he had an unintentional assist in his successful return by the conservative third political party candidacy of Bruce Craswell, husband of 1996 GOP gubernatorial nominee Ellen Craswell.

The 1st was a swing district for most of the 1990s; Inslee's win marked the third time the district had changed hands in four elections. However, Inslee was a major beneficiary of the recent Democratic trend in the Seattle area. Inslee defeated Washington Senate Minority Leader Dan McDonald in 2000, taking 54.6% of the vote. Inslee defeated former state representative Joe Marine in 2002, taking 55.6% of the vote after the district was made more Democratic in the 2000s round of redistricting. He would never face another contest nearly that close, and was reelected three more times with over 60 percent of the vote.

In July 2003, after Gary Locke announced he would not seek a third term as Washington's governor, Inslee briefly flirted with a gubernatorial bid before deciding to remain in Congress.

During the 2009-10 campaign cycle, Inslee raised $1,140,025. In data compiled for the period 2005 to 2007 and excluding individual contributions of less than $200, 64 percent of Inslee's donations were from outside the state of Washington and 86 percent came from outside his district (compared to 79 percent for the average House member). A total of 43 percent of Inslee's donations came from Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. The largest interests funding Inslee's campaign were pharmaceutical and health related companies, lawyers and law firms, and high tech companies.

In 2010 he won by a 15-point margin, with 57.67% of the votes cast in his favor. His district went 62% to Barack Obama in 2008, an indication of how strongly the district then leaned Democratic.


Though a member of the Bill Clinton New Democrat Coalition, Inslee has accumulated a liberal voting record and expertise on high-tech issues.

Inslee was awarded a "Friend of the National Parks" award by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in 2001 for his support of legislation protecting the integrity and quality of the National Park System.

Inslee was "...one of Congress’s most ardent advocates of strong action to combat global warming," according to The New York Times. Inslee was the first public figure to propose an Apollo-like energy program with an opinion editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, on December 19, 2002, and in a series of similar pieces in other publications. Inslee co-authored Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, in which he argues that through improved Federal policies the United States can wean itself off of its dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuel, create millions of Green-collar worker jobs, and stop global warming. He has been a prominent supporter of the Apollo Alliance. Inslee strongly believes the Environmental Protection Agency should remain authorized to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2011 House hearing on the Energy Tax Prevention Act, Inslee said Republicans have "an allergy to science and scientists," during a discussion of whether the Regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act should remain in place following a controversial court finding on the issue.

He has been an outspoken critic of the George W. Bush administration's decision to 2003 invasion of Iraq. On July 31, 2007, Inslee introduced legislation that called for an inquiry to determine whether then United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be impeached. Gonzales eventually resigned.

Inslee voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law.

In 2011, Inslee voted in favor of authorizing the use of U.S. armed forces in the 2011 Libyan civil war and voted against limiting the use of funds to support NATO's 2011 military intervention in Libya.

On March 20, 2012, Inslee left Congress to focus on his campaign for Governor of Washington.

Committee assignments

  • United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce
    • United States House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Power

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus
  • Congressional Internet Caucus
  • House Medicare and Medicaid Fairness Caucus
  • House Oceans Caucus
  • United States Congressional International Conservation Caucus
  • Congressional Arts Caucus

Governor of Washington (2013–present)

2012 gubernatorial election

On June 27, 2011, Inslee announced his candidacy for Governor of Washington in 2012. His campaign focused on job creation, outlining dozens of proposals to increase job growth in clean energy, the aerospace industry, and biotechnology. He also supported a ballot measure to legalize gay marriage, which passed, and opposed tax increases. He won election by a relatively slim three-point margin over his Republican opponent, Rob McKenna, with 51% of the vote. McKenna did not immediately concede, waiting until all votes had been counted.

2016 gubernatorial election

On November 8, 2016, Inslee won re-election as Governor of Washington, defeating Republican former Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant. Bryant officially conceded the office to Inslee on November 10, after more votes had been counted.


During the 2013 session, the legislature failed to create a fiscal budget plan during the initial session, and Inslee was forced to call two special sessions in order to give time for a budget to be created. The Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House each passed their own budgets, but could not agree with one. Finally, in June 2013, Inslee was able to sign a US$33.6 billion budget upon which both houses had agreed as a compromise, albeit hesitantly. It was the first time in 20 years that the legislature reached a budget so late in the year.

On June 13, 2013, Inslee signed an additional estate tax into law. The estate tax had bipartisan support and passed the Senate in a 30-19 vote.

Inslee giving a speech in May 2013

In December 2013, Inslee was elected to serve as finance chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

In January 2014, Inslee gave a speech commending machinists who voted to renew Boeing's contract with Seattle, allowing the company to build its Boeing 777x aircraft in Seattle. Inslee said the contract would bring Washington to a new industrial plateau and be a turning point for Washington jobs:

"These jobs are in the thousands and it is not only on the 777X, the first model of the 777X but all the subsequent derivative models as well."

The plan was to prevent Boeing from building part of the aircraft in Washington and part of it somewhere else, as they had done with the Boeing 787, which had been partially constructed in South Carolina. On 11 February 2014, Inslee announced that he was issuing a moratorium on executions in Washington:

"There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today. There is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system."

Inslee cited the high cost of pursuing the death penalty, the randomness with which it was sought, and a lack of evidence that it is a deterrent.

Electoral history

Date Position Status Opponent Result Vote share Opponent vote share
1988 WA Representative Elected
1990 WA Representative Incumbent Re-elected
1992 U.S. Representative Open seat Doc Hastings (R) Elected 51% 49%
1994 U.S. Representative Incumbent Doc Hastings (R) Defeated 47% 53%
1996 WA Governor Open seat primary Gary Locke (D), others Defeated
1998 U.S. Representative Challenger Rick White (R) Elected 50% 44%
2000 U.S. Representative Incumbent Dan McDonald (R) Re-elected 55% 43%
2002 U.S. Representative Incumbent Joe Marine (R) Re-elected 56% 41%
2004 U.S. Representative Incumbent Randy Eastwood (R) Re-elected 62% 36%
2006 U.S. Representative Incumbent Larry W. Ishmael (R) Re-elected 68% 32%
2008 U.S. Representative Incumbent Larry W. Ishmael (R) Re-elected 68% 32%
2010 U.S. Representative Incumbent James Watkins (R) Re-elected 57% 43%
2012 WA Governor Open seat Rob McKenna (R) Elected 51% 49%
2016 WA Governor Incumbent Bill Bryant (R) Re-elected 54% 46%

Personal life

Trudi Inslee

Inslee and his wife Trudi were high school sweethearts and were married on August 27, 1972. They have three sons, Jack, Connor, and Joe, and live on Bainbridge Island.

Inslee is an avid basketball player and a member of "Hoopaholics", a charity group dedicated to "treatment of old guys addicted to basketball and who can no longer jump" as Inslee has often joked. In October 2009, he played basketball at the White House in a series of games featuring members of Congress on one team and members of the administration, including President Obama, on the other.


  • Jay Inslee and Bracken Hendricks, Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, Island Press (October 1, 2007), ISBN 978-1-59726-175-3

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Early life, education, and law career Washington House of Representatives (1989–1993) U.S. House of Representatives (1993-1995) Inter-congressional years (1995–1999) U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2012) Governor of Washington (2013–present) Electoral history Personal life Works
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