US Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA, 1) announced today that he's resigning from Congress so he can focus all his time on the governor's race.

Inslee has represented the 1st Congressional District (Seattle's northern suburbs into Snohomish and west into Kitsap) since being elected in 1998. (Inslee was also a congressman from central Washington's 4th Congressional District for one term—in 1993 and 1994—before being turned out in the '94 Gingrich revolution.)[pullquote] I am going to leave everything on the field. I am going everywhere and I am going to listen to everybody... I am all in.—Jay Inslee[/pullquote]

Inslee has lagged in the polls since the summer to his Republican rival Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, though a couple of new Democratic polls show a neck-and-neck race and Inslee is ahead in fundraising; he has $2.7 million cash on hand (having raised $4.2 million) while McKenna has $2.1 million on hand (having raised $3.7 million).

Those fundraising numbers come with a couple of asterisks, though: 1) AG McKenna has been barred from raising money for the past three months while the state legislature is in session; 2) Nearly half-a-million of Inlsee's total comes from the state Democratic Party while McKenna has not relied on any cash infusions from the state GOP.

In his statement at his downtown Seattle campaign headquarters this afternoon, Inslee said he was "excited to focus full time" on the campaign adding:

“I am not one for half measures or half-hearted efforts. I am going to leave everything on the field. I am going everywhere and I am going to listen to everybody... I am all in. It was a difficult decision, but what I need to do right now is focus all my attention on talking to people about what’s really important – creating jobs and growing our economy."

Asked if Inslee's decision had anything to do with McKenna's strong showing so far and anxiety among some Democratic insiders (and sarcastic twitter feeds) that the Inslee campaign wasn't finding traction, Inslee's campaign spokeswoman Jaime Smith told PubliCola that Inslee is happy with his effort to date, "clearing the primary field [of Democratic challengers], getting key endorsements from the base [such as NARAL-Pro Choice Washington, the Sierra Club, and the Washington Education Association] and leading in fundraising."

Smith said recent events "had sparked the fire in Jay that this is where he needed to be full time ... he said, 'I need to get both my feet in.'"

She cited the recent state Republican budget proposal that (as opposed to the Democratic proposal) cuts education. "To see them actually tip their hand," Smith said, "that woke a lot of people up and reinforced for Jay how important it is that he's here."

Smith also said the Republicans' recent focus on restricting women's rights had raised Inslee's alarms about their agenda convincing him that he needed to be in Washington state countering the GOP "seven days a week talking about the real issue, creating jobs."

Inslee's resignation, effective on March 20, will not trigger a special election. His seat will remain vacant and the race that's already underway to replace him, which began when he announced he was running for governor last year, will continue until November. That race features six Democratic rivals (Darcy Burner, Suzan DelBene, state Rep. Roger Goodman, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, Laura Ruderman, and Darshan Rauniyar) and Republican Snohomish County Council member John Koster.

DC politics site Politico says Inslee's move is a "tacit acknowledgement that the Inslee campaign is not where Democrats would like it to be." They add: "Democrats have argued that McKenna's lead is based on name identification and that Inslee's numbers would improve once more people got to know him. But a Public Policy Polling survey taken in mid-February indicated that the number of voters who haven't formed an opinion on Inslee or McKenna are relatively the same."
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