Former Democratic congressman and Washington State gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee has made another Crazy Ivan maneuver, doubling back on his rejection of a June 12 debate against his Republican opponent Rob McKenna before the Association of Washington Business.
From Wednesday’s The Seattle Times:
After earlier rejecting the debate, claiming AWB had acted in bad faith and conspired with Attorney General Rob McKenna on the scheduling of the event, the Inslee campaign now says he intends to show up.
The Inslee camp denied the change of heart was due to negative optics surrounding his earlier refusal to attend, which had been widely mocked by Republicans.
The negative public perception of Inslee’s changing position on debates has most certainly been earned.
The AWB has been a stop on the debate circuit in the state governor’s race since 1992. Had Inslee kept to the decision he announced on Tuesday to skip the event, he would have been the first Democratic candidate for governor in the entire history of the debate.
The impression the episode makes upon voters will have very little to do with the standing of the AWB, though, but very much to do with his irresolute posture on debating McKenna since first raising the subject last year.
In December, Inslee was the first candidate in the race to issue a formal challenge in the press for six debates, but in January when the AWB announced the date for its hosted event, Inslee’s bravado waned and he unleashed a hail of objections about the manner of AWB’s scheduling decision.
In the interim, Inslee announced his resignation from Congress—a decision resulting in a conundrum for state elections officials in finding a way to fill his seat—a choice Inslee explained was necessary so he could go “all in” in the governor’s race.
On Monday, Inslee’s earlier protests regarding the AWB debate manifested in a firm decline (or so it seemed) delivered on the same day McKenna released his proposal for 15 debates. (A rendezvous with Inslee at the AWB kicks off McKenna’s proposed schedule.)
McKenna campaign communications director Charles McCray issued a statement on Inslee’s change of heart, suggesting Inslee should keep going and agree to more than one debate:
We’re glad that Mr. Inslee gave in to public pressure, regained his senses, and agreed to the AWB debate. I hope that the Inslee campaign will continue to cooperate with us to ensure the AWB debate is only the first of many opportunities voters will have to hear from the leading candidates for Governor.