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Inslee running for governor, source says

OLYMPIA — U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee will launch a campaign for Washington governor early next week, wading back into state politics after more than a decade in Congress, a Democrat familiar with his plans said today.

Inslee plans to make his announcement in Seattle, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because Inslee’s plans have not been officially made public. He has long been positioning himself as a potential candidate, and that pathway cleared earlier this month when Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she would not seek a third term.

Attorney General Rob McKenna has already declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination.

Inslee, who lives on Bainbridge Island, has represented Washington’s 1st Congressional District since 1999, covering the northern suburbs of Seattle. The 60-year-old has been a leader in Congress on battling climate change and promoting clean-energy alternatives, writing a book on the topic and touting the economic benefits of such a transition.

This won’t be Inslee’s first run for governor. He first entered state politics by serving four years in the Legislature before serving one term in Congress in the early 1990s. He then lost his seat in a rematch to current 4th District Rep. Doc Hastings in the Republican wave of 1994 before seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 1996. Inslee didn’t make it past the primary, losing to Gary Locke, who went on to serve two terms.

Inslee already has signaled one key area where he plans to confront McKenna, launching an online petition urging the attorney general to drop his lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. McKenna signed on to a multistate challenge of the law, arguing that it is unconstitutional because of a requirement that individuals without health insurance must purchase private insurance or face a fine.

Inslee said that McKenna’s support for the lawsuit indicated that he was trying to build support among “right-wing extremists.”

“With Washington state’s health care at risk, does Rob McKenna protect our interests, or his own?” Inslee said in a letter to supporters earlier this year. A Republican hasn’t won a governor’s race in Washington in more than three decades.

Former state Rep. Laura Ruderman has already declared her candidacy to replace Inslee. State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, also plans to enter the race, according to a Democrat familiar with his plans who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another potential Democratic candidate is Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He has said he will consider moving to another state if his current seat is eliminated in redistricting. Kucinich is a frequent visitor to Washington — he’ll be back in Seattle in two weeks — but has declined to discuss potential locations.

“It’s way too early to have that discussion because the (redistricting) maps aren’t available,” Kucinich said today.

Republican candidate James Watkins has entered the race. He lost to Inslee last election.