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Inslee endorses challenger to Democratic incumbent in 5th LD

Over the weekend, Jay Inslee took the unusual step of publicly endorsing a Democratic challenger to a Democratic incumbent senator.

In the 5th LD, incumbent Mark Mullett faces a general election challenge from his left from Ingrid Anderson.

Mullet has been among the more moderate Democrats in the legislature over the last four years. He lists the support of a range of state and local elected officials on his site.

Anderson is a nurse and a leader in the Washington State Nurses Association. She has won the strong backing of organizations across the full spectrum of the labor community.

In Inslee’s endorsement of Anderson, he says Anderson will be helpful in passing his clean energy agenda.

I’ve been clear about the urgent need to adopt cleaner fuels and build a clean energy economy here in Washington State. Ingrid shares this sense of urgency, as a matter of public health and environmental protection. We need her voice – and her vote – to take overdue action to protect our health and climate.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andy Billig didn’t appear to find this rationale very convincing.

He tells the Wire that Mullet has been a good vote – often the key vote – on these issues.

I am surprised that Governor Inslee would endorse Sen. Mark Mullet’s opponent, when Sen. Mullet has supported so many of the Governor’s legislative priorities in Olympia, including the 100% clean energy bill, $1 billion in education funding in 2018, the Zero Emission Vehicle bill, and the Hazardous Substance Tax increase in 2019.

Much of the progress we’ve made in Washington State is thanks to Senator Mullet winning two of the toughest races ever by any Democrat in the State Legislature in 2012 and 2016.

Apparently, those previous efforts were not enough to dissuade the governor from making this move.

That this came after the primary is important. Now that the seat is likely safe to remain in Democrats’ hands (barring an unforeseen write in effort), Inslee’s endorsement of Anderson is part of an effort to move the Senate Democratic caucus leftward. It may say more about the politics of the next session than the specific candidates in this race.

In a long statement emailed over the weekend, Mullet said he was “disappointed but not surprised.”

My job is to represent what is in the best interest of the residents of the 5th Legislative District, and that means that sometimes I need to oppose Governor Inslee’s policies if they don’t fit our local community. I refuse to be a rubber stamp for bad policy. That independence is inconvenient for the Governor and that independence is not something voters can expect from my opponent.

Mullet said he appreciated that Inslee called him to tell him about the endorsement, which he was a “courtesy” too seldom seen in politics these days.

Mullet said that one continued point of disagreement with the governor is on the question of a special session.

A major disagreement I have with the governor is the need for a special legislative session. Our state is in crisis… State after state is calling a special session to address criminal justice and police reforms, but where is Washington?

Responding to the sole endorsement, Anderson focused on the alignment she has with Inslee on a range of policy issues.

We face some real challenges in the coming year as we recover from this pandemic, and once treatments are available, we will need health care professionals in office to make sure we enact equitable policies that benefit all Washingtonians. We also have the opportunity to reshape our economy and make it more fair, sustainable, and self-reliant. I look forward to working with the Governor to make needed positive change.

The Washington State Nurses Association helped recruit and propel Anderson forward as a candidate. Anderson came up through WSNA’s political action committee.

Lynnette Vehrs is the President of WSNA, one of the state’s most productive advocacy organizations for their members in recent years.

We are so proud of our member, Ingrid Anderson, for earning this endorsement. The State Senate needs a nurse to help us navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and to help ensure more equitable access to our health care system, strengthen our public health response and address the health impacts of climate change. We agree with Governor Inslee that Ingrid Anderson will bring an important perspective to the Senate with her background as a nurse and a health care leader.

This story was updated with a quote from WSNA.

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