Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant has launched a campaign for governor, becoming the first significant Republican challenger to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in 2016.
Bryant made the announcement Thursday afternoon in a video on his campaign website, saying he wants to focus on creating “solid family wage jobs” and avoid putting “any more tax burden on middle class families.”
Bryant has served as a Port of Seattle commissioner since 2008. He’s been mulling a bid for governor for years, and has been traveling the state extensively to raise his profile.
His announcement comes amid controversy over Shell oil rigs docking along Seattle’s waterfront in preparation for Arctic drilling. Earlier this week, Bryant was the only Seattle port commissioner to vote against asking Shell to delay the arrival of its rigs.
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The Polar Pioneer, the first of those oil rigs, was arriving in Seattle on Thursday afternoon. Environmentalists have hotly criticized the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 lease with Foss Maritime, Shell’s contractor.
In his announcement video, Bryant didn’t mention Shell, but did say he was committed to cleaning up Puget Sound. Recalling growing up near the waters, Bryant said “it is on my bucket list to make sure that when I go, Puget Sound is healthier than when I was born.”
More than two dozen state House Republican lawmakers signed a letter this week urging Bryant to run. The letter criticized Inslee for a “hyperpartisan, divisive style” and said Bryant would bring “unifying, pragmatic leadership.”
In a statement, Jamal Raad, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, criticized Bryant for his past work as a registered lobbyist and donations to “deeply conservative” Republicans including George W. Bush. Raad also slammed Bryant as someone who “led the charge” on making Seattle a base for Shell’s Arctic oil drilling.
Others are likely to join the fray. Republican insiders have pointed to state Sens. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, as potential contenders, along with Republican Congressman Dave Reichert.
But the path to winning back the governor’s mansion will be tough for any Republican.
With King County growing into a solidly Democratic stronghold, the GOP has lost eight straight gubernatorial races going back to 1984 — the longest such losing streak in the nation for the party.