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McKenna vs Inslee: Who Won the First Gubernatorial Debate?

The Association of Washington Business hosted the first gubernatorial debate between former Congressman Jay Inslee (D) and State Attorney General Rob McKenna (R). You can watch the replay on TVW.

You can watch TVW's replay of the first gubernatorial debate yesterday between former Congressman Jay Inslee (D) and State Attorney General Rob McKenna (R).

Go here to watch the debate on TVW's website, or you can watch the embedded video above. 

The two are the expected front runners in the race to replace outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire, who announced last year that she will step down after two terms.

McKenna, of Bellevue, and Inslee, of Bainbridge Island, will square off on the ballot box for the first time in the August 7 primary. Washington is a "top two" primary state, which means that the top two vote-getters regardless of party will proceed to the general election.

Both sides their candidates did well in the debate, and began the "spin" with press releases after the event had concluded:

From McKenna's camp:

McKenna Shines in First Gubernatorial Debate

Washington voters had their first opportunity to evaluate the leading candidates for governor side-by-side this afternoon in a debate hosted by the Association of Washington Business and Greater Spokane, Inc. at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane. Attorney General Rob McKenna gave an inspired, energetic performance that reinforced his campaign’s themes - calls for proven education reforms, addressing regulatory and workforce issues to jump-start job growth, and a leadership-driven culture change in Olympia to make state government leaner, more efficient, and less expensive.

“I had a lot of fun today and I hope we can arrange to do it again soon,” said McKenna. “More importantly, I think the voters really benefit from a robust exchange of ideas. I promised a year ago that my campaign would be focused on substantive policy positions instead of merely generating soundbites. I think we’ve lived up to that promise and will continue to do so through Election Day.

“I laid out my case to the voters today and hope I proved that its time to end the same old approach to governing in Olympia,” continued McKenna. We can go in a New Direction and I can provide the fresh leadership necessary to get us there.”

McKenna’s opponent, former Congressman Jay Inslee, seemed to ignore pre-debate media criticism and remained elusive in his responses to moderator Austin Jenkins’ questions. Inslee did manage to show imagination in sporadic attacks on McKenna.

“I am glad to see that after all of the back-and-forth and excuses, Congressman Inslee showed for the debate,” said Charles McCray III, McKenna’s communications director. “That being said, I’m disappointed that the Congressman dodged so many questions posed to him. Calls for Mr. Inslee to take a position on several difficult policy topics have been constant. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone who watched today’s debate was left with a clear view of what the Congressman would actually do if he was elected governor.

“The Congressman did manage to deliver his scripted stump speech over the course of the afternoon,” continued McCray. “From it, we know that the Inslee jobs plan is a re-heated version of the failed federal stimulus that would gamble taxpayer dollars on picking economic winners and losers instead of simply making it more affordable for all small businesses to hire. While Rob wants to focus on finding solutions to the challenges that face Washington, Mr. Inslee is obsessed with the ‘virus of Wisconsin’ and a host of other national talking points provided by his special interest allies. It was a lackluster performance. Perhaps Mr. Inslee will want another shot after reviewing the tape and decide to agree to at least one more of the 13 remaining debates proposed by the McKenna campaign.”

 

From Inslee's camp:

Inslee successfully reveals contrast with McKenna on key issues of jobs, economic development

SPOKANE – Today, the leading gubernatorial candidates squared off at the Association of Washington Business spring meeting in Spokane for their first debate of the campaign. The debate focused primarily on issues such as economic development, job creation and the state budget.

Jay Inslee, the Democratic candidate, emphasized that jobs will be his number one priority as governor and reaffirmed his commitment to rebuilding Washington’s middle class.

“I have lived on both sides and worked on both sides of the Cascades," said Inslee. "I have a deep understanding of our state and an abiding faith in our ability to move forward. Washingtonians are an innovative people - we create, we invent, we build. We have led technological revolutions in aerospace and ecommerce. Now we are on the cusp of a technological revolution in clean energy and biotech, and I believe it is our destiny to again lead the world.”

While Rob McKenna repeatedly resorted to generic, recycled Republican talking points, Inslee offered specific strategies tailored to Washington’s strengths in manufacturing, clean technology, life sciences and other key industries.

Inslee is a recognized leader in clean tech, and has also successfully worked to open up trade for Washington apples into Japan, protect aerospace jobs against unfair foreign competition, and strengthen Washington's IT and biotech industries. Inslee’s jobs plan is supported by a wide range of industry leaders who say the policies will help bolster growth and create jobs.

"As a small business owner in eastern Washington it is clear to me after listening to today's debate that Jay understands how to grow our economy and position us all for a strong future," said Phil Cline, owner of Naches Valley Heights Vineyard in Yakima.

McKenna, who is expected to be endorsed by the right-leaning Association of Washington Business and has benefitted from fundraisers hosted by corporations such as Tesoro and payday lender Ace Cash, repeated often-used refrains of deregulation and reform, but provided few specifics.

Other issues discussed included education, transportation and who is at fault in the Wall Street meltdown.

“Jay clearly dominated today's debate, showing he’s the only candidate with a substantive plan for rebuilding Washington’s economy and the middle class,” said Jaime Smith, Inslee’s press secretary. “Having lived on both sides of the state, having worked jobs liked driving bulldozers and washing dishes, Jay has a deep appreciation for Washington’s workers as well as a deep understanding of our state’s economy. It showed today.”

“While McKenna is reading from a list of talking points and pandering to voters with empty promises, Jay was offering new ideas that will make Washington a leader in the innovative new economy,” Smith continued. “Today’s debate made that contrast very clear.”

What do you think? Do you think there was a debate winner? You can log in with your Facebook account or create a free Patch account to tell us in the comments.

Ira B. Appelman June 14, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I thought McKenna edged out Inslee on the one issue so far that distinguishes the candidates, i.e. taxes. Both candidates are well-qualified to be Governor. Both spoke well and, at least at this point, it is difficult to see sharp differences between them, with the exception of the "taxes" issue, which distinguished them in this debate. McKenna supports the voter-approved 2/3 requirement to raise taxes; Inslee does not. I found Inslee's claim that only requiring a majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes was more "democratic" was lame AT BEST. WA voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative that required a 2/3 vote in the WA legislature to raise taxes. Our WA constitution allows the legislature to overturn a voter-approved initiative after two years; is that more "democratic?" WA citizens have struggled for decades to control a special-interest dominated legislature that continues to increase taxes instead of controlling expenditures. Early in the debate, Inslee surprisingly rejected the latest proposed tax to support education. He claimed that additional funds could be found through economic growth and eliminating waste. We've heard that before!!! When growth and waste elimination don't create enough funds, it's easy for the legislature to use that as an excuse to raise taxes. McKenna knows that the 2/3 requirement serves as a check, but not an insurmountable obstacle, to the legislature raising taxes instead of reducing expenditures first.
Ray Burt June 15, 2012 at 12:48 PM
The scary thing is that a majority (that is 50% + 1) of voters can set a limit of 2/3 (or theoretically 100%) for future laws of any type. You don't have to be a historian to know the dangers this creates. Undemocratic isn't lame.....it's an accurate reflection of the situation. The initiative process here (and in Florida) is flawed, not only democratically (as shown above), but philosophically. It's problematic that voters, via initiative, can cherry pick specific items of government rule without being responsible for the whole thing. Getting rid of a tax is fun ("Vote YES to remove a tax!") without the responsibility of producing a balanced budget ("that's THEIR problem") and providing essential government services. We elect folks to make the decisions and if we don't like the decisions, we change the folks in charge. We shouldn't have a line item veto, by initiative, and then expect the folks in charge to produce good results.
Ray Burt June 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM
typed Florida, meant California.
Kendall Watson June 15, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Looked like a draw to me, though I thought Inslee scored some points with his akido-style redirect of McKenna's criticism of him on loosening home lending standards. That may not have been exactly what McKenna said, but the verbal volley seemed effective.
Ira B. Appelman June 16, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Hi Kendall: I wasn't impressed by Inslee's response to McKenna pointing out that the depth of the recession has been caused by national policies that Inslee, as a congressman, should have controlled. Both national parties bragged about the highest percentage of home ownership in history, but they didn't talk about the largest number of homeowners with very little equity in their homes. That leverage, investing with borrowed money, predictably causes a crash when the market starts down, which is what happened here. The problems on Wall Street were caused by a lack of national regulation. Investment bankers were allow to write unregulated insurance (credit default swaps), so when the market turned down, they couldn't cover their obligations. Wall Street was also allowed to write complex derivatives so even the firm presidents didn't know what they were worth. The $16,000,000,000,000 national debt is also national policy. How much of it did Inslee vote for? The debate concentrated on the candidates' proposals for the future, but at some point a comparison of their records will occur, made more complex because Inslee's record is national and McKenna's is state and local.

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