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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

President Obama to Washington Democrats: Stay involved

President Barack Obama onstage with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, during a fundraiser for Inslee at the Washington State Convention Center, Friday, June 24, 2016, in Seattle. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

SEATTLE – Barack Obama can’t run for a third term, but he came close to giving a re-election campaign speech Friday night as he tried to boost the chances of Democrats who are on this year’s ballot in Washington.

And he sought to patch rifts within his party.

“You’ve got to stay involved in this election,” he told about 3,000 people at a fundraising dinner at the Washington State Convention Center. “It’s too important to stay home.”

He defended his record on health care reform and job growth while jabbing at Republicans who predicted doom and gloom on everything from unemployment to expanding deficits to sky-high gas prices four years ago.

Without mentioning Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump by name, he told the crowd they should reject fear, hatred and bigotry.

“We don’t have the luxury of just popping off and saying whatever comes to the top of our head,” he said. “We don’t have time for hatred. We don’t have time for bigotry.”

He praised Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking re-election, for fighting for stronger environmental protection, protections for gay and transgender residents, and expanded early education. “Give him four more years to get the job done,” Obama urged.

Clearly briefed on state issues, Obama also urged the crowd to support an initiative that would raise the minimum wage in Washington and guarantee paid sick leave for many workers. A higher minimum wage, he said, will combat one of the main problems with the economy, even though jobs have been growing for more than six years.

“Wages are growing too slowly,” he said. “Too many workers feel they’re being left behind while people at the top amass more wealth.”

His speech was interrupted at one point by some members of the crowd who repeatedly shouted “Ban Oil Trains!” Eventually, Obama said he’d heard them and they’d made their point.

“I’ve always got a bigger to-do list,” he told the crowd. “I’ve still got six months.”

Inslee and Obama traded compliments. Obama called Inslee “one of America’s outstanding governors” although he joked that “on the basketball court he was kind of a hack.”

Inslee said Obama brought the nation back from the brink, ushered in 75 months of private-sector job growth and helped hundreds of thousands of Washington residents get health care through the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, once an epithet, “now is a title of honor,” he said.

The president has been an ally in the fight against climate change, Inslee said, which has been one of his main efforts in his first term as governor.

“We are going to lead the world in defeating climate change,” Inslee said. “This is our destiny.”

The Washington State Convention Center was set for 3,000 people who paid $250 each for dinner and speeches by Obama and Inslee. The total will be split between Inslee’s re-election campaign fund and Democratic congressional candidates in the state.

After the dinner at the convention center, Obama went to another fundraiser at the Medina home of Steve and Heather Singh. Steve Singh is chief executive officer of Concur Technologies.

According to the pool report from reporters traveling with Obama, a Democratic official said the price of tickets for that event ranged from $10,000 to $66,800 per couple.