FILE - WA Gov. Jay Inslee 1-11-22

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks as he gives his annual State of the State address, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

(The Center Square) – Halfway into his third term, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is still raising campaign cash and shows no real sign of winding things down. This is prompting speculation about a possible fourth term.

Aisling Kerins, the governor’s former campaign manager and current consultant, doesn't rule out that possibility.

For now, Inslee “is focused on protecting our pro-choice majorities and preparing for the next legislative session and hasn’t made any decisions about 2024 yet,” she told the Seattle Times, in an article that brought some of the will-he-or-won't-he Democratic speculation out in public.

The Center Square reached out to a handful of Republicans, Democrats and policy experts about the prospect of Inslee running for a fourth terms as governor. It was mostly the Republicans who responded.

“Washington is ready for new leadership,” Washington State Republican Chair Caleb Heimlich said via email. “Voters from across the political spectrum are pushing back against Inslee's agenda of more taxes, more spending, lawlessness, mismanagement, and authoritarianism.”

He went on to say, “We would welcome the opportunity to run our 2024 candidate against Jay Inslee's 10 year record of failure which has destroyed jobs and businesses, set children back years in their learning, and made Washington more unaffordable.”

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, suspects a fourth Inslee gubernatorial run would rub several Democrats the wrong way.

“Of course he could run again,” Wilcox emailed the Center Square. “The really interesting question is what will happen with the jostling crowd of ambitious Democrats who want to be next in line?  Democrats believe that the only threat to their ambition is another Democrat, but the second tier Democrats have already invested 4 years more than they expected in waiting to succeed Inslee.”

Some prominent Washington Democrats likely looking to be the state's next governor are Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and King County Executive Down Constantine, according to the Seattle Times.

“You now see moments when the would-be successors feel that there's not enough attention and it is time for some new effort to attract cameras and eyeballs,” Wilcox continued. “That's when you see a new educational or environmental or legal initiative announced with great fanfare. Another run by this Governor will be accompanied by immense frustration from a generation of ambitious Democratic politicians.”

Even a political insider from the other side of the aisle hinted that he suspects Inslee won’t run again, noting there is no shortage of qualified Democrats to succeed Inslee.

“It is standard practice for elected officials serving four year terms who face the voters in presidential cycles to wait until after the midterms to announce either a possible reelection bid or retirement plans,” Andrew Villeneuve, founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, told The Center Square in an email.

Inslee seeking a fourth term would be unusual, according to Villeneuve, although he didn’t rule it out completely.

“If Governor Inslee did seek a fourth term, that would be unprecedented, as no governor has been elected to four consecutive terms in state history, but we are living in unprecedented times,” he said.

Villeneuve had high praise for the governor.

“Governor Inslee has done a great job for our state since becoming Washington's chief executive in 2012, and he has garnered a greater share of the vote in each successive campaign he has run for governor, but even the legendary Dan Evans opted against seeking a fourth term, and that is the path we'll see many editorial boards, people, and organizations urge the Governor to take after these midterms have concluded,” he said.

Villeneuve concluded, “The Democratic bench is strong... it is common knowledge that there are several potential successors to Governor Inslee who are ready to step up and lead Washington's executive branch. So, if Governor Inslee does choose to retire in 2024, he'll do so with the confidence that he stands an excellent chance of being succeeded by a leader who will continue his work to advance causes like tax fairness and climate justice.”

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.