Rep. Jay Inslee Visits Port of Kalamaby Erik Olson
The Daily News, August 22, 2011
KALAMA -- During his first campaign stop in Cowlitz County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee said the state needs to make more public investments to create jobs.
During an hour-long meeting at the Port of Kalama on Monday, Inslee had more than a dozen questions for Mark Wilson, the port's planning manager, that centered on business at the port. Inslee was especially interested in how government investments in new rail lines and Columbia River dredging helped support 900 private jobs on port property.
"These are all private enterprise jobs, but they're dependent on public investment," Inslee said. With Gov. Chris Gregoire stepping down after two terms, both parties are scrambling to gain an early advantage in what should be a competitive 2012 election.
Inslee, 60, has served 12 years in the U.S. Congress from Bainbridge Island in the Seattle suburbs. He is considered the Democratic front-runner. State Attorney General Rob McKenna is the early favorite to win the Republican nomination, but Inslee did not mention McKenna during the Kalama stop.
In addition to his Kalama stop Monday, Inslee met with Vancouver teachers and stopped in Longview for a private meeting with supporters.
With its mix of rural conservative voters and industrial labor union members, Southwest Washington has emerged as battleground territory that's shifted to the right in recent years. In 2008, Democrat Gregoire won only 46 percent of the vote in Cowlitz after narrowly winning the county in her first run for governor in 2004.
Two years ago, Republican Jaime Beutler won a hard-fought and expensive congressional race in Southwest Washington, wresting control of the Third District seat. She became only the second Republican to hold the seat over the last 50 years.
Inslee said his background in rural areas will help him compete in the region, and he plans to return during the campaign. A Seattle native, Inslee worked as an attorney outside Yakima for a decade and was first elected to Congress in Central Washington's Fourth District.
"I think I can compete for votes everywhere in the state. I understand resource-based economies," Inslee said.
At the Port of Kalama, transportation is key to keep business running smoothly, Wilson told Inslee. The Port of Kalama is one of the largest grain exporters on the West Coast, and the port added rail lines last year to accommodate more mile-long grain trains destined for its two privately owned grain terminals, United Harvest and Kalama Export, Wilson said.
Inslee applauded the port's investments in economic growth.
"People have sort of thought of rail as last century's issue, but it's this century's too," he said.
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