In what has become his habit on Seattle-area visits, President Obama rolled through the region in his motorcade, raising campaign cash for political allies while holding no public events.
Calling the 2016 election a choice between divisiveness or unity, President Obama swept through Seattle on Friday to raise money for Gov. Jay Inslee and congressional Democrats.
Speaking to a crowd of thousands at the Washington State Convention Center, Obama blasted Republicans for blocking progress on issues including gun control and immigration reform.
He said voters must choose between “dividing ourselves up, looking for scapegoats, ignoring the evidence, or realizing that we are all stronger together.”
In what has become his habit on Seattle-area visits, Obama rolled through Seattle and the Eastside in his motorcade, quickly raising campaign cash for political allies while holding no public events. In town less than 24 hours, Obama boarded Air Force One at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport just after 9:30 a.m. Saturday for his flight back to Washington, D.C.
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At the convention center Friday, about 3,000 people paid at least $250 a ticket to benefit Inslee’s re-election campaign. Later, Obama spoke to a much smaller crowd of well-heeled donors at a private lakeside home in Medina.
Taking the convention center stage to an ovation and shouts of “We love you,” Obama mentioned his mother, who once lived on Mercer Island, and jokingly took a jab at Inslee’s basketball skills.
The roughly 30-minute speech went on to praise the governor’s work on an array of issues, such as how he led the state’s recovery after the 2014 Oso landslide and what he’s done to spur job growth.
“That did not just happen on its own,” Obama said.
Before Obama, Inslee took the stage in front of his supporters, plugging gun-control and minimum-wage initiatives likely headed to Washington’s fall ballot, and lauding state lawmakers’ work to cut college tuition.
He laid into presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom he labeled a narcissist and bigot. “We are not going to turn over our great national, or the nuclear, launch codes to a deacon of division,” Inslee said.
The governor, elected in 2012, faces a challenge from Republican Bill Bryant, a former Seattle Port commissioner.
Bryant is hosting a campaign rally in Tacoma on Saturday afternoon. Susana Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, is set to headline.
In a written statement, State Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison declared Inslee “wounded” by state-government leadership failures and said, “The president was called in as a diversion.”
After attending the Seattle event, Obama traveled to Medina for a fundraising dinner at the home of Steve and Heather Singh for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Steve Singh is CEO of Concur Technologies, the Bellevue-based company that sells travel and expense-management services.
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, of Medina, co-hosted the event, attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan; Rep. Derek Kilmer, of Gig Harbor; and Rep. Denny Heck, of Olympia.
Ticket prices ranged from $10,000 to $66,800 per couple. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former Gov. Gary Locke also attended.
Earlier in the day, the president was greeted by the governor, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and others at Sea-Tac Airport when Air Force One touched down at 3:30 p.m.
There, Inslee said they talked about “exciting transportation work” going on here, including Sound Transit 3, a $54 billion, 25-year program to extend light rail and other services across the region. Murray said he also spoke with the president about the Florida massacre.
Standing behind concrete barriers, the president flashed grins and shook hands with some in a small, enthusiastic crowd of invited onlookers before boarding a motorcade to the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle.
With traffic halted to make way (downtown remained congested through the night), the motorcade made a 20-minute trip from the airport to the Westin Hotel, where onlookers lined roads, taking pictures and videos with their phones.
Dozens protested the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, alongside others demanding an end to shipments of crude oil on Washington railroad lines, held a demonstration near the area.
Some briefly interrupted the president’s remarks at the convention center, a break to which the president responded:
“Ban oil trains? OK, I heard you — I’ve still got six months, we still got time.”
On Friday afternoon, hours before the fundraising event, Inslee announced that he has met with federal railroad authorities to discuss the oil-train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge that occurred this month. The governor said he is seeking to temporarily halt Bakken crude-oil trains until new safety measures are enacted, according to a news release from his office.
Obama was last in Seattle in October to raise money for Sen. Patty Murray’s re-election campaign, a visit in which he criticized Republicans on topics spanning climate change and immigration.
The president’s current Seattle visit is part of a West Coast trip that began Thursday and included the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in California, a conference for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Staff reporter E.J. Smith III contributed to this report.