Jay Inslee Does a Sarah Palin and Leaves Constituents in the Lurch

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It might not be a surprise that Jay Inslee felt like he needed to step down from his Congressional seat in order to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. Inslee has a savvy competitor in Attorney General Rob McKenna. What is a surprise is that Inslee and fellow Democrats apparently think it's no big deal to leave the Congressmember's seat vacant for eight months.

Washington will be down one Congressmember until November by virtue of Inslee's timing. If he had resigned by March 6, the governor would have called a special election to fill his seat. But his announcement instead came over the weekend.

"I asked this question: Where could I do most good for the state of Washington," Inslee said, explaining his decision.

State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz went even further in rationalizing why Inslee's months of missed votes won't matter. "We all know Congress is gridlocked and not much is happening there," Pelz told The Seattle Times.

Really? So little is happening in Congress that members might as well not show up for the better part of a year. That has got to be one of the most cynical views of Congress ever expressed. But hey, if that's true, maybe all of Congress should take eight months off and put the saved salaries into reducing the deficit.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the Congressional watchdog non-profit Public Citizen, doesn't believe it's true, however. While he concedes there has been especially bad gridlock, he says there are a number of important pieces of legislation now lined up: "the JOBS act, the budget itself, the STOCK Act." Indeed, he calls the latter, which would ban insider trading by Congressmembers, potentially "the most significant ethics achievement of the 112th Congress."

Inslee, moreover, is not just any member of Congress. As a veteran of seven terms, he's one of the Democrats' leaders.

Considering the scant attention paid to the looming vacancy, one might be forgiven for thinking that this is just the way politics is played. But Holman, a ten-year veteran of Capitol Hill, says "it doesn't happen all that often" that a Congressmember will resign to run for another office.

Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Nathan Deal of Georgia did so in 2010, but both resigned in time for a special election to be called, according to Holman. The Seattle Times suggested that Inslee may have timed his resignation the way he did in order to save the state the cost of a special election.

Maybe, but it sure seems like the best thing he could do for the state would be to fulfill his duties in office. Had he been a Republican, the Democrats would have surely slammed him, just as they did Sarah Palin when she decided she didn't feel like being Alaska's governor any more.

Inslee's move, opines Holman, "is every bit as irresponsible as what Sarah Palin did."

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