OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has spent more than half his days traveling out of state on the campaign trail in the five months since declaring his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Seattle Times and Northwest News Network report that between March 1 and the end of July, Inslee was on the road for all or parts of 90 days out of 153, or nearly 60 percent of the time.
Inslee — who has made climate policy the focus of his campaign — has been crisscrossing the county, touring flooded towns in Iowa and solar installations in California. He’s also been a regular guest in New York and Washington, D.C., cable news studios.
New figures released by the Washington State Patrol show that the governor’s security detail has cost taxpayers more than $580,000 between March and June in travel and overtime expenses.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only other current Democratic governor running for president, recently agreed to have his campaign pay for travel, lodging and meals of his state security detail when it accompanies him on out-of-state campaign trips, according to Montana Public Radio.
Inslee has declined calls to follow suit, pointing to a state law requiring the patrol to provide security to every governor. His campaign has reimbursed the state about $9,000 for costs of some security-related car rentals, as required by federal election rules.
Several U.S. senators are among the presidential hopefuls, and John Weingart, director of the Eagleton Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University, said politicians who run for president often face questions back home, but it’s “particularly true” for governors.
“It could be seen as flattering that your governor is being considered by at least some people as possible president, but it seems to be more often seen as a something negative,” he said.
David Postman, Inslee’s chief of staff, said the governor’s absences have not impaired his office’s operations.
“The fact of the matter is the decision-making chain hasn’t changed because of his travel,” Postman said. Over more than six years in office, the governor’s staff has learned his priorities and is able to reach him when a top-level decision is required, he said.
In an email blast last month, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) said taxpayers have “unwillingly become the largest contributors to Inslee’s failing campaign.”
It’s not clear how much longer Inslee’s intense travel schedule will continue. He campaigned in Nevada over the weekend and is scheduled to attend the Iowa State Fair this week.
To qualify for the next presidential debate in September, Inslee must show he has attracted 130,000 donors and hit 2 percent support in four qualifying polls. His campaign says has surpassed 100,000 donors, but to date he has not hit the polling target in any survey.
Inslee is the first Washington politician to run for the presidency since Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson sought the Democratic nomination in 1976, losing to former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.
“People want a candidate in this race that takes the climate crisis seriously and has a plan to move our nation off fossil fuels and on to clean energy,” Inslee campaign spokesman Jamal Raad said.