President Barack Obama played cheerleader for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Friday night at a fundraising dinner in Seattle, urging voters to reject Republican candidates who he said are promoting divisiveness and hindering the nation’s progress.
At the fundraiser for the Democratic governor, Obama told a crowd of about 3,000 that re-electing Inslee will ensure the first-term governor can continue working to address climate change and pursue policies such as raising the statewide minimum wage.
“Jay tried to do that here. Republicans blocked it,” the president said of raising the minimum wage, during a speech at the Washington State Convention Center downtown.
“We’ve got to keep on pushing to make it happen.”
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During remarks that lasted about 30 minutes, Obama also criticized Republicans in Congress for blocking action on gun control, as well as refusing to confirm his latest nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.
He had harsh words for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who he said is promoting policies that divide Americans rather than unite them.
We don’t have time for charlatans, and we don’t have time for hatred, and we don’t have time for bigotry,”
President Barack Obama at Seattle campaign fundraiser for Gov. Jay Inslee
“We don’t have time for charlatans, and we don’t have time for hatred, and we don’t have time for bigotry,” Obama said at the fundraiser, which cost between $250 and $500 to attend.
Obama’s visit came the same day Inslee called on federal officials to halt rail transport of Bakken crude oil, saying no such trains should travel through Washington until their tracks are properly inspected and new safety measures enacted.
Inslee issued his statement just as opponents of oil trains began to demonstrate outside his fundraiser with Obama, demanding an outright ban on the transport of oil by rail following this month’s derailment of an oil train in Mosier, Oregon.
“If your toaster was as dangerous as these oil trains, it would have been banned already,” said former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who participated in the oil train protest outside the Seattle convention center Friday afternoon.
Protesters briefly interrupted Obama’s speech at the fundraiser, urging him to “ban oil trains now!”
“I heard you,” Obama said. “I’m making a note of it.” After joking that his to-do-list was always growing, the president returned to his speech talking about other Democratic policy priorities.
Obama went on to attend another private fundraiser Friday night in Medina benefiting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tickets for that event – held at the home of Steve Singh, the CEO of Bellevue-based Concur Technologies – cost between $10,000 and $66,800 per couple.
Obama was scheduled to leave the Puget Sound area Saturday.
Local officials warned that travelers should expect delays and changes to transit routes through 3 p.m. Saturday as a result of the president’s visit. Some downtown Seattle streets were expected to be closed intermittently, while others would experience traffic slowdowns, according to King County Metro.
Bill Bryant, Inslee’s Republican opponent, is also planning a large campaign event this weekend in Tacoma.
The campaign rally for Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner, will be headlined by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who chairs the Republican Governors Association. The event, which the campaign expects about 1,000 people to attend, will take place between 1:30 and 3 p.m. Saturday at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.
So far, Inslee has a commanding fundraising lead over Bryant, having raised about $6.5 million to Bryant’s $1.8 million.
After subtracting debt and expenditures, that leaves Inslee with about $3.9 million in cash on hand, compared to about $650,000 in funds available to Bryant.
Yvette Ollada, Bryant’s press secretary, said the Bryant campaign isn’t worried about those numbers.
“We have our plan in place and we’re on target to meet our goals,” Ollada said Friday.
I think it shows a weakness on their side, that the president is coming out and doing fundraising for an incumbent who is supposed to be easily winning re-election.
Yvette Ollada, press secretary for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant
But Bryant’s fundraising also lags that of previous Republican gubernatorial candidates at similar points in their campaigns.
In 2004, Republican candidate Dino Rossi had raised about $2.3 million by June 20. The former state senator had raised $5.1 million by the same date in 2008.
Additionally, Republican candidate Rob McKenna, who lost to Inslee in 2012, had raised $6.1 million by June 20 that year – more than three times what Bryant has raised so far.
Jamal Raad, a spokesman for the Inslee campaign, said Bryant’s fundraising numbers indicate “a lack of enthusiasm around his campaign.”
“He’s behind previous Republican candidates for governor, and he’s missed all his goals for his campaign fundraising,” Raad said.
Ollada said she expects Bryant’s fundraising to pick up after the Aug. 2 primary election, particularly when it comes to donations from the Republican Party. So far, the state Republican party has yet to contribute to Bryant’s campaign.
Ollada said Obama coming to help raise money for Inslee is a sign the governor’s campaign is struggling more than it should be.
“I think it shows a weakness on their side, that the president is coming out and doing fundraising for an incumbent who is supposed to be easily winning re-election,” Ollada said.