Democratic governor-elect Jay Inslee's first formal press conference today would have driven his former rival, Republican Rob McKenna, crazy.
It's not just that it was Inslee up at the podium in the spot where McKenna so badly wanted to be.
It's that Inslee spoke in the same old broad terms about "innovation," "change agents," and "the wave of the future"—and tacked to his goofy, vague metaphors ("when you climb a mountain you take one step at a time" ... "if you don't understand you're in it [competition], you won't win it")—that made McKenna apoplectic during their recent debates.
To add insult to injury: Inslee held the press conference to announce his transition team co-chairs, which included one maxed-out McKenna donor ($3,200), Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith.
Along with Smith, Inslee—holding court in front of the TV cameras and reporters on the 26th floor of the Westin Office Building in downtown Seattle—named Renton School District Superintendent Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel and the President of Washington State University Dr. Elson Floyd to his team.
With the state facing a $1 billion shortfall in the next biennium, the roomful of reporters pressed Inslee for specifics.The trio—all three of whom Inslee praised for having "great experience leading large organizations" and bringing "innovations and creativity"—is tasked with helping Inslee recruit cabinet members, organizing Inslee's office structure, and evidently, re-conceptualizing how government works.
Inslee said he hoped the likes of Microsoft's Smith would "entice" people from the private sector "to experience the adventure of public service."
Given a projected state budget shortfall of $1 billion in the next biennium, the roomful of reporters pressed Inslee for specifics. One reporter, for example, asked him how he was going to address the underfunded (negative $44 million by the end of 2015) ferry system. Inslee simply said: "This team is going to help me put in place innovative leadership throughout state government including in our ferry system. We know that there are great challenges there, and we will find a solution to them at the right moment."
I reminded him that current Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has repeatedly said both Inslee's and McKenna's plans to balance the budget while meeting the state's key commitments didn't add up and that the state needed new revenue.
Inslee said: "We are starting a team today to help grow an economy that can increase revenues for the state of Washington. What these three leaders are going to help me do [is] help bring people to the state that can grow our economy rapidly, which will put 300,000 people on the track to get back to work which can and will increase our revenues."
After one reporter accused him of not answering my question, and after he was asked if he would send a tax package to voters. Inslee said: "I believe economic growth has to be the ultimate solution to our fiscal problem. The reason we have a $4.2 billion reduction in revenue—that was caused by Wall Street—is that we have people out of work."