OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has thrown his support behind Ingrid Anderson, a progressive candidate challenging state Sen. Mark Mullet, a Democrat from Issaquah in King County’s 5th Legislative District.
Announced Sunday, Inslee’s endorsement against an incumbent raised the temperature in what has become a high-profile intraparty contest ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The governor used the endorsement to boost Anderson — a nurse who lives outside Snoqualmie — who narrowly led Mullet in the August top-two primary results.
Inslee also used the chance to highlight work he wants to continue on climate change at the Legislature.
“I’ve been clear about the urgent need to adopt cleaner fuels and build a clean energy economy here in Washington State,” said Inslee in an endorsement statement. “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.”
Mullet fired back, citing his disagreement with taxes favored by Inslee and the governor’s reluctance to call a special legislative session to address the state’s response to the coronavirus.
“Everything comes down to two main issues, it’s about taxes and it’s about a special session,” said Mullet, a small-business owner, in an interview.
Mullet added that he has supported many of Inslee’s environmental policies, including sponsoring one of the governor’s priorities last year, the House version of which ultimately became law.
Regardless, Inslee’s office this year considered publicly calling out Mullet and four other Democratic senators by name for not supporting two proposals sought by the governor, including a clean-fuels standard, according to emails obtained through a request for public records. That draft of remarks by Inslee on climate legislation at the end of the legislative session was never ultimately used.
In a statement, Anderson suggested she would support a clean-fuels bill.
“With respect to taking action on climate change, I just don’t understand why the incumbent sides with the fossil fuel industry against cleaner fuels and climate action,” Anderson wrote in prepared remarks. “Our district is the first to breathe the smoke of a bad fire season, the first to see the impacts on forest health as the summers get hotter and drier, and our kids and seniors are the first to suffer the health impacts of dirtier air.”
The 5th District race is a sign of Washington’s shifting political fault lines.
Just four years ago, Mullet fended off a Republican challenger by less than 1 percentage point in what was then a key swing district. The district shifted in 2018, with voters electing Democrats to what had been the district’s two GOP-held House seats.
Mullet has previously supported charter schools, after voters in his district approved a charter-school ballot measure in 2012. And he has signaled opposition to some of his party’s proposals for new taxes, including a capital-gains tax proposal by Inslee.
If reelected, Mullet said he wants to prioritize finding ways to get some children — such as kindergartners, those in special education or who speak English as a second language — safely back in school soon. He wants to help businesses recover from the pandemic and help with the fallout of the Employment Security Department’s problems with unemployment insurance, he said.
Anderson has said she wants to focus on improving health care. And in her statement welcoming Inslee’s endorsement, she said, “We also have the opportunity to reshape our economy and make it more fair, sustainable, and self-reliant.”