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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

August 14, 2012 at 9:30 PM

Acrimony over aerospace group endorsement of McKenna

Last month, an influential aerospace group endorsed Republican Rob McKenna in the governor’s race.

The plug by the Aerospace Futures Alliance got some buzz because it was the group’s first-ever gubernatorial race endorsement. The AFA board includes representatives of Boeing, other aviation companies, airports and community colleges.

But apparently that didn’t sit well with some powerful Democratic politicians and other supporters of McKenna’s Democratic rival, former Congressman Jay Inslee. They viewed the sole endorsement as something of an insult after all that Democrats have done for Boeing and aerospace — from fighting for the Air Force tanker deal to securing special tax breaks. Inslee also has singled out aerospace as a sector he’d give special attention to as governor.

After a behind the scenes brouhaha, the AFA board is scheduled to interview Inslee Wednesday, and may be asked to proclaim an endorsement of him as well, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.

Sterling Clifford, Inslee’s communications director, confirmed Inslee plans to talk with the AFA board Wednesday morning.

One point of dispute is whether Inslee had been previously invited to speak with the AFA board prior to its decision to endorse McKenna. Clifford said Inslee was not invited.

But others familiar with the AFA talks said board members had been led to believe that Inslee had been invited and declined to show up.

Linda Lanham, the AFA’s executive director, did not respond to multiple calls asking for comment on the issue.

In a news conference announcing the McKenna endorsement, Lanham said McKenna’s “commitment to a world-class education system, combined with his detailed knowledge of how to actually build this system, is the primary reason we are making this endorsement.”

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