Today, the Jay Inslee for Governor Campaign hosted a political fundraiser at the Washington State Convention Center, with a special guest – the Man from Hope himself. After the speech at the DNC, there was no way I was going to miss this, despite the fact that it was sunny, and sunny Saturdays in Seattle are at a premium.
All duly glammed out, I headed for the bus stop, only to be swamped with people wearing purple. The Washington Huskies were playing at home, and, in the interim while their stadium is being remodeled, their games are being held downtown. Plus, the scheduled bus never came. When the next one finally showed up, way, way too many people crammed our way onto it. Fortunately, it was a short bus ride.
Follow me below the fold for a trip to the Convention Center.
Once there, it was a short walk and an even shorter escalator ride until I arrived on-site. The Inslee campaign really ran a snappy event: there were volunteers with signs, clipboards and everything else needed to make checking in fast and easy. Great job, Inslee team! While waiting for the event to start (and, indeed, on the bus – not Mr. Bus, I understand that vehicle is attached to someone else, whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned), I chatted politics with my fellow attendees. We all were really excited to be there.
In due time, the doors opened and we all headed for our assigned seats. Again, props to the Inslee campaign, who seated us, rather than letting us mill around and be confused. My seat was close enough to see – but, alas, not close enough to get any sort of meaningful photos with my crappy digital camera. If I make it a practice of going to these things, I’m going to invest in a better solution.
Lunch was a tasty chicken Caesar salad or an equally tasty vegetarian option; rolls, butter and fancy dessert, either a lemon tart or some sort of chocolate tiramisu thing, served with coffee or tea. None of us at the table knew one another, which was kind of neat. So we ate, chatted about politics and waited for the event to start. Which it did. At one p.m. Promptly.
As a side note, rarely have I see such a collection of well-dressed people at a daytime event in Seattle. The last time I saw this many suits or nice dresses was at the opera.
Here is a list of the speakers and their major points:
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland led off. After a moment of silence to commemorate the deaths in Libya, she hit the ground running, talking about Congressman Inslee’s excellent record on education and innovation, but accidentally said he was running for “Mayor of Washington” not Governor. Ooops. She told us that this was probably the largest political fundraiser in the State of Washington, mentioned that ours was the party of inclusion and that “some parties are just more fun than others.” She finished with a rousing cry of “Forward!”
Next up was King County Executive Dow Constantine. After some laudatory remarks about Inslee (and some snarky ones about his opponent, with whom Constantine served on the King County Council), he reminded us that there were only 52 days left before the election and we needed to GOTV. Very stirring, but he’s always been a very fine speaker.
Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie followed with two songs. Very nice.
Senator Patty Murray took the stage next, and was welcomed with a rousing ovation. She told numerous stories that clearly outlined the choice before us, including the Budget Crisis when the Republicans threatened to shut down negotiations if Planned Parenthood was not defunded. Her response? “Fine. Go ahead and shut the government down.” (She was the only woman in the room at the time, which is seriously wrong).
She was able to very clearly illustrate the political climate in Washington, especially what’s going on across the aisle and convey the enormous sense of urgency to those of us in the hall. Plus, it was just an all-fired, outstanding great speech. It’s easy to see why she is one of the most effective politicians/statespeople from our Washington in our recent history – forceful, dynamic, passionate about public service; extraordinarily competent in a quiet way, with a very positive, yet realistic outlook.
(As a side note – I’m trying to pay attention and not describe politicians in terms of their looks, but as an, um, “vertically challenged” individual, I also love that Murray is short. Like my size short. Yet, she goes right on being her own awesome, senatorial, butt-kicking self). She also hammered home that Inslee’s opponent is just another Scott Walker and that we deserved someone who would lead us forward.
Then, we got to see the campaign video, which did a really good job, both on the surface and subliminally, of showing the difference between Inslee and his opponent (the font changing both type and color and the musical changes were especially masterful) – and good for a few laughs.
Apparently, the Republican Governor’s Association has targeted our race, and dumped over $5 million into it. Ick. Bad news.
After the video, we got to hear from Denis Hayes, the founder of Earth Day. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that he was actually still alive, let alone that he is local, but he’s quite young – and was at the time of the first Earth Day, only 26. If anyone was worried that he would treat us to a long, prosy speech about caring for the planet, that worry soon vanished. He had some of the best lines of the night, such as:
He thanked us all for being inside on such a beautiful day, adding that “it’s going to be 82 and windy today – just like Clint Eastwood.” (Laughter)
“As I look around this hall, I don’t see one empty chair.” (More laughter)
“The Republican Governor’s Association has donated $5.2 million dollars to spread lies about Jay. To do some arithmetic, that’s $100,00 per day.” (Murmurs from the crowd). “The good news is that we can match those funds –we have the money!” (More murmurs). “However, the challenging news is – it’s still in your checkbooks!” (Laughter).
“Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Someone can stand up, right now, and write us a check for $5.2 million dollars. Do I have any volunteers?” Silence. “Okay, then, we’ll do this the hard way – the Democratic way…” and then invited us to donate.
Since our table was no-host, I volunteered to serve as “table captain” (the envelope was right in front of my plate). Mr. Hayes went on to say that he was asking us to do that as a gift “for someone whose greatest strength is that he cannot be bought.”
Can I pause for a moment and say just how incredibly brilliant that was? Having the only non-political speaker, a man of enormous integrity, who founded the cultural icon of Earth Day, ask us for money? I was thoroughly impressed.
Two candidates for Congress – Suzan DelBene, State Senator Derek Kilmer and Congressman (and liberal icon) Jim McDermott followed. I think they had good things to say, but I was behind on my notes at that point. Kilmer made some funny remarks about Inslee’s opponent – I wish I could remember them.
Senator Maria Cantwell spoke next, again, opening to a rousing ovation. Another excellent speech, focusing on clean energy – a passion of both hers and Inslee’s – innovation and education. She talked about Health Care Reform, mentioning that Inslee’s opponent had sued to overturn the bill (grrrr), and how wrong that was, that “a pre-existing condition should not be a one-way ticket to bankruptcy.” That sent a chill up my spine, as did an equally powerful comment about clean energy.
All of the speakers, by the way, affirmed that Jay is pro-choice and pro-marriage equality, to loud rounds of applause from the audience. They also affirmed the necessity of re-electing President Obama. (I certainly didn’t mean to leave that out!)
Cantwell introduced both Inslee and President Clinton and out they came, to a huge round of applause and a long ovation. Clinton sat down in a chair off to the side, while Inslee spoke first. He looked very happy, but tired, and his voice was a bit hoarse. It’s hard to believe that he’s over sixty, as he really exudes a youthful vigor.
He opened the speech by asking us to thank the union members who had served us our excellent lunch to great applause. He spoke of his Washington roots, that he is a “fifth-generation son of Washington.” He spoke of his father, a respected coach and teacher, with obvious love and pride, adding that his father’s example helped fuel his passion for education. He talked about Boeing. He talked about the innovations that have come out of Washington State. (I thought he could have emphasized a few other examples there – i.e. Microsoft, Amazon, Costco, and Starbucks, as well as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are all headquartered in the greater Seattle area).
Inslee geeked out on clean energy and technology for a bit, but then, towards the end of the speech, got totally fired up, and said, “There are 52 days left until election. I promise you this – if you give me the next 52 days, I promise you I will give you the next four years – I will stand up for health care… I will stand up for the right to choose… I will stand up for gay marriage….” – and the room completely exploded.
The thing about this race is that Inslee, in addition to being really, really smart, and something of a hunk, for a married guy in his sixties - he's just incredibly likeable. And his opponent is not. His opponent is like this geeky guy in science class who mocked you when you were dissecting grasshoppers and you got upset when you couldn't get the tersomeres out of your fingers.
Once we all calmed down (and sat down), Inslee said, “And now it’s my great pleasure to make the introduction of the day – to introduce a world leader who has done so much, over the past two decades to improve America’s standing in the world….” He went on like this for a few minutes, and then said, “But, sadly, Hillary couldn’t be here.” President Clinton just cracked up. It was awesome. Inslee paused, and said, “Isn’t it great, in light of the tragic events of this week, to have such an incredible Secretary of State demonstrating such amazing leadership?” to a round of heartfelt applause.
He then shifted gears, introduced President Clinton and we were off for a very pleasant set of explanations from the teacher-in-chief.
President Clinton deserves his own diary, but, in short, here are some of the things he said:
He thanked everyone who put the event together and acknowledged all of the local folks running for office.
He talked about our shared set of values, that we are all in this together, rather than “you’re on your own.”
Once again, he called out the “radical wing of the Republicans who are in charge now,” and emphasized, over and over again, the theme of creative collaboration.
He talked about Climate Change, how Inslee is a leader in it, what his own Global Institute is doing about is, and asked, “Are we going to do something about it, or let it do something to us?”
We then got a lesson on the economy, Clinton-style, very similar to the one at the DNC – and then he underscored the “stark choices” of this election. It was, again, very reminiscent of the DNC speech, masterfully tailored to our needs and Inslee’s strengths. It was awesome just to be in the room with him.
On a side note, I doubt he looked at his notes, even once.
After it was over, a lot of people took off, but two of us headed for the stage. I wasn't about to leave until the candidate (and special guest) did!
Sure enough, both Clinton and Inslee were shaking hands. I was in despair, as I was about two rows back and couldn’t see any openings, but then a miracle happened – the people in front of me included a teacher and three of his honors students - and after they got their pictures taken, they got out of the way – so I got my handshake and warm comment after all. Also, Congressman Inslee recognized me, which was really nice, and I was able to connect with Ms. Del Bene (I knew her from before) afterwards.
It was a great day to be a Democrat in Washington State.
Edited to add - Wow, Community Spotlight! Thanks everyone!