Everybody knows that Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) has long had his eye on the governor’s mansion, and is widely expected to give up his House seat to run for our state’s top office in 2012. But who of note has his eye on Rep. Inslee’s coveted House seat, once it becomes vacant?
Word is that noted travel writer and TV and radio personality Rick Steves is seriously considering giving up his globetrotting ways for an extended stay in the other Washington, and is already working the local Democratic circuit in preparation for a potential run. The latest evidence? Steves jumped at the offer to be the keynote speaker at the Snohomish County Dems’ Annual Gala fundraiser on Sept. 12.
Yes, I know, 2012 is quite a ways off, but it wasn’t so long ago that Inslee was a top candidate for the number one or two position in President Obama’s Department of Energy, giving Steves a more immediate opportunity to explore his own political ambitions. And it was during this time, with a potential special election looming, that Steves reportedly firmed up his intention to run.
Through his popular guidebooks, website, radio and TV shows, the ever likable and seemingly unflappable Steves has expanded his Edmunds WA based tour business into a low-key, travel empire, making himself a nationally known public figure in the process. And in recent years, Steves has increasingly leveraged his national audience and stature to insert his own unique experiences into the public debate.
While his website is still largely devoted to his tour business and travel guides, it now contains an entire section devoted to “Social Activism,” including commentary arguing for a “European perspective” on drug control policy (he urges America not to be “hard” or “soft,” but rather, “smart on drugs”), and a link to his controversial ACLU-sponsored video urging the end of our nation’s failed “prohibition on marijuana.” Steves has also recently earned himself the unbridled hatred of many on the knee-jerk right for his thoughtful documentary on traveling through Iran, in which he shows the Iranian people as anything but an axis of evil.
But rather than protect his business by pulling back from his activism in the face of increasingly strident attacks, Steves chose to respond to his critics with a new book, “Travel as a Political Act.” Indeed, it appears that the harsh reaction from the right has only served to further politicize Steves.
For the life me, can’t understand why Steves would want to give up what appears to be one of the best jobs in the world for one which often appears to be one of the worst (I once phrased the same question to KIRO radio host and former WA-08 contender Dave Ross, who genuinely, it seems, believes in something he calls “public service”), and with 2012 such a long ways off, Steves still has plenty of time to come to his senses. But if he doesn’t, I think he’d make a great candidate, and while not everybody will be as thrilled as fellow HA blogger Lee, I know a lot of folks who would welcome Steves to the race.