Firefighters endorse Inslee for governor

Democrat visits Vancouver scrap metal recycling facility, weighs in on Columbia River Crossing project

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee stood before more than 100 firefighters on Tuesday in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park to receive an endorsement from the state’s firefighters union and the International Association of Firefighters.

Inslee expressed strong support for protecting the firefighters union’s collective bargaining rights, emphasized his blue-collar past and said he is dedicated to fighting for middle class workers.

“We don’t win collective bargaining rights by being mild-mannered,” Inslee told the crowd.

Following Inslee’s speech in the park, the candidate for governor attended lunch at the Hilton Vancouver Washington with the firefighters. From there, he toured the Pacific Coast Shredding scrap metal recycling facility in Vancouver.

During the lunch, notable firefighters spoke in support of Inslee.

“(Gov. Chris) Gregoire has been a big champion for firefighters, and I know Jay Inslee will be right there with us,” firefighter and state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, told the group.

Earlier in the day, Kelly Fox, Olympia firefighter and president of the Washington State Council of Firefighters, said the statewide firefighters union has noticed Inslee’s ability to work with Republicans to accomplish goals. Fox added that the state needs a leader whose life has been “framed by working as a blue-collar worker.”

Inslee has been a lawmaker in the state House of Representative and in the U.S. House of Representatives. When he was younger, he worked some construction jobs, which included painting houses and driving a bulldozer. He’s also worked as a prosecuting attorney.

While sitting around the lunch table with firefighters, Inslee told the group that “we’re in a competitive race.” He said he sees their endorsement as a way to get his campaign out ahead of that of his Republican rival, state Attorney General Rob McKenna. The two have been close in recent polls.

Inslee is also endorsed by the Washington Education Association, the Washington State Labor Council, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-abortion group. Inslee is scheduled to receive an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest today.

During his Vancouver visit, Inslee called the Columbia River Crossing project to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge a national issue.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we move forward” with the project, he said. When it comes

to paying for light rail and putting tolls on the bridge, Inslee said he would like to move forward with a plan that has broad approval from citizens, but he added that, “one way or another, it has to be funded.”

At Inslee’s tour of Pacific Coast Shredding on Tuesday afternoon, the candidate met up with Southwest Washington Democrats, including state Rep. Tim Probst of Vancouver, state Senate candidate Annette Cleveland and Clark County Commissioner candidate Joe Tanner. Inslee also spoke with Ralph Miller of Portland-based Metro Metals Northwest Inc., which is the parent company of Pacific Coast Shredding.

Miller told Inslee that there needs to be better cooperation between state government and the private sector.

“I believe the private sector makes jobs,” Miller said. “I don’t think (regulatory agencies) care as much about the jobs we create.”

Miller also told Inslee that Gregoire is the only politician he still donates to.

“She visited the yard,” Miller said. “She really helped us to solve the issues in a manageable way. And I never forgot that.”

Inslee said he wanted to visit the Pacific Coast Shredding facility because it’s a combination of two things he loves: exports and recycling. The amount of exporting the company does helps the economy, and recycling metal is more energy efficient than smelting metal from virgin ores.

“They are part of the new way of doing business,” Inslee said.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics