SPOKANE, Wash. - The two leading candidates for Washington governor tried to make it clear at their first debate that Washington voters will choose between two contrasts this November. Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee debated each other before a Spokane audience Tuesday .
Regarding contrasts, first there were the two candidates’ styles.
Jay Inslee represented the north Seattle suburbs in Congress up until March. He spoke in broad terms about how he would act as governor.
“I am a person who believes fundamentally that it is a value in the state of Washington that if you are a breast cancer survivor, you ought to be able to get health coverage in our state,” Inslee said.
McKenna is Washington’s sitting attorney general. He spoke in more specific terms about health care coverage for the more than a million Washingtonians who aren’t insured.
Democratic candidate for governor Jay Inslee. Image via TVW.org
“We also need to look to insurance reform to create more competition, more opportunities for people to buy insurance they can afford," McKenna said. "We need a market which is national, not just limited to our state. We need to get to a place where one day you’ll see the Gecko selling health insurance on TV.”
Republican McKenna was among the attorneys general who challenged the Obama administration’s health care overhaul. That challenge is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the two candidates sought to delineate themselves, Inslee didn’t hesitate to bring a whiff of national politics into the discussion on the economy.
“Fundamentally the Romney-McKenna view on life is that the reason we have problems is because of homeowners, not Wall Street," he said "I have a fundamentally different view.”
The Association of Washington Business sponsored the Spokane debate. Each candidate was ready to talk about his own jobs plan -– and attack his opponent’s. McKenna criticized his Democratic opponent for proposing to give start-up tax breaks to certain business sectors, including biotech, biomedicine and clean energy.
“I’m looking out at an audience full of business people. They have all kinds of businesses," McKenna said. "I wonder how many of them favor a plan that gives their competitors or an entirely different industry a competitive advantage over their own. Wouldn’t you rather have a level playing field where all of you have a chance of being successful?”
But on other issues, the two leading candidates were less at odds. For example, both called for increasing funding for higher education. And both indicated more study is needed of the pros and cons of coal exports being shipped by train through the Northwest.
Republican candidate for governor Rob McKenna. Image via TVW.org
With five months to go before the election, McKenna and Inslee will be hitting the trail to give voters a clearer sense of who they would be as governor.
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