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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been leading the coronavirus response in the Evergreen State – and while his early action against the virulent disease has received praise, his job in protecting citizens remains more important than ever.
Washington was the first U.S. state to report a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. As of April 2, the state has 5,984 confirmed coronavirus cases and 254 deaths. The Democrat imposed orders early on to mitigate the disease’s spread, measures he says are “highly likely” to be extended amid the ongoing fight.
The White House coronavirus task force praised Washington as an example of how taking early measures to limit the spread of the virus is successful.
Gov. Jay Inslee turns to staff members as he prepares to speak about additional plans to slow the spread of coronavirus before a televised address from his office on March 23 in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feud with Trump
The current challenge has not prevented Inslee and President Trump from butting heads, with their coronavirus feud escalating into tit-for-tat name-calling.
In response to Trump telling the nation’s governors that his administration was ready to provide backup to states in crisis, Inslee said: “We don’t need a backup. We need a Tom Brady,” referencing the Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Meanwhile, Trump has called Inslee a “snake” and “failed presidential candidate” who is “constantly chirping and complaining.”
Made a run for the 2020 presidency
Inslee’s political aspirations have reached above the governorship, running as a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to face off against Trump in November.
He failed to impress voters and dropped out of the race on Aug. 21, 2019.
Inslee has long indulged his creative side with painting and drawing.
Inslee’s office says the governor enjoys “writing and illustrating books for his grandchildren and sketching scenes from around Washington.”
During his presidential campaign, Inslee’s team dubbed his art #JayDoodles in posts on Twitter. The work shared includes a surfing bear, several flamingos on scooters and a lone sailor in a rowboat.
Two terms as governor
The 69-year-old Inslee first took over as Washington’s 23rd governor in 2013. He was reelected in 2016.
“As governor, Jay’s top priority is growing Washington’s innovative industries such as clean energy, information technology, and life sciences, and strengthening existing industries such as aerospace, agriculture, maritime and the military,” Inslee’s office says.
It further stated that under Inslee’s leadership in Washington has “provided affordable health care to 800,000 more Washingtonians, passed the Reproductive Parity Act, stood up to the president’s Muslim ban, protected LGBTQI Americans from discrimination, raised the minimum wage,” among others.
Inslee discusses the deployment of a field hospital at CenturyLink Field Event Center on March 28 in Seattle, Wash. (Amanda Snyder/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
The state boasts one of the highest minimum wages in the nation at $13.50 an hour. Inslee signed into law an Equal Pay Opportunity Act in 2018 that requires employees to receive equal pay and career advancement opportunities, regardless of gender.
A statewide policy supporting immigrants’ role in the Washington economy was passed in 2019. The bill puts forth that state and local law enforcement agencies will not use resources to enforce federal immigration policies.
Before becoming governor
Before his service as governor, Inslee was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995 and from 1999 to 2012.
A fifth-generation Washingtonian and son of a high school teacher and a sales clerk, Inslee graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in economics. He later earned a law degree at Willamette University and went on to practice as an attorney and prosecutor.
Inslee and his wife have three sons and three grandchildren.