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Washington gubernatorial hopeful, other candidates left off speaking bill at this year’s state Democratic convention.

By Ellen Dennis, The Spokesman-Review
Published: June 24, 2024, 8:18am

BELLEVUE — The state Democratic Party convention that kicked off Friday night drew more than a hundred people from across Washington who sipped cocktails as they listened to politicians give speeches on the fourth floor of a convention center.

Organizers of the three-day event at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue appeared to have designed the lineup of speakers in a way that would mask any divisions in party ranks.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mark Mullet, a state senator from Issaquah, wasn’t invited to speak at the event, so he chose to skip it all together. Also not invited to speak were state attorney general candidates Nick Brown, a former U.S. attorney, and state Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, along with state lands commissioner hopefuls Dave Upthegrove, a member of the King County Council, and state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Lake Sutherland.

Mullet, an ice cream and pizza shop owner, announced his bid for governor one year ago. The Issaquah senator presents himself as a more moderate Democrat than party front-runner and current state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Since he wasn’t invited to speak at the convention, Mullet prerecorded a speech that went live on the internet Friday in which he addressed voters and delegates in the state.

“Now more than ever, we need a Democratic governor with a proven track record of finding bipartisan solutions to the biggest challenges facing our state,” Mullet said in the video.

Instead of attending the convention, Mullet reportedly took a trip to Yakima where he is scheduled to meet with farmers to hear their concerns about affordability and public safety, a representative from his campaign wrote in a statement.

“The campaign planned on attending,” a spokesperson for Mullet said in a statement texted to The Spokesman-Review. “But when informed Mark wouldn’t have a speaking spot, he recorded comments.”

When asked if there’s room for a wide range of opinions at this year’s convention, Washington State Democratic Party spokesperson Stephen Reed said yes.

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“We’re Democrats,” Reed said. “If you’ve got two of us in a room, you’ve got about five opinions.”

Reed said Mullet wasn’t invited to talk because there were “a lot of logistical issues about who was able to speak,” adding that party leadership wanted to feature the voices of what he called the “coordinated campaign” to elect Democrats for all of the offices.

One speaker on Friday night’s bill was state Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, a Democrat who will seek re-election this November. After the speeches wrapped up, Pellicciotti stayed in the convention center event room, mingling with delegates and politicians, posing for the occasional selfie photograph with a cell phone camera.

Pellicciotti told The Spokesman that the state Democratic Party has had room for diverse voices for years.

“A lot of these folks haven’t seen each other in a couple years,” Pellicciotti said of the event. “So being able to come together with a shared commitment to help working families and retirees is energizing for the people here, and it’s energizing for me to witness.

Pellicciotti said he did see Mullet’s speech that went live online Friday, but that he “did not have any additional insight or perspective” as to why the gubernatorial candidate wasn’t invited to speak at the convention.

Another speaker on Friday night’s docket was state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, who is also seeking re-election this year.

Reykdal said the state Democrats leave more room for diverse opinions than Republicans in Washington.

“I really do believe our tent is as big as can be, maybe bigger,” Reykdal said. “It’s the biggest tent of the two major parties in the state.”

Reykdal said he was just a speaker and did not have any information about the event speech bill or why Mullet wasn’t on it.

Notable speakers included Gov. Jay Inslee, gubernatorial candidate Ferguson, U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen, along with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

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