Eli Sanders: Well, the AG's debate was more exciting than expected. Will McKenna vs. Inslee be more—or, as Goldy predicts—less exciting than Dunn vs. Ferguson? Let's find out. If you want to watch along with us, open up the livestream in a separate tab or browser—or tune your radio to 94.9 FM—and then hit refresh to see our updates to this post.
Goldy: And we're off! From their opening statements you can see that both McKenna and Inslee are more polished politicians than those on the AG warmup card. And thus I expect a much less interesting debate.
Eli: Although I thought there was an interesting moment at the outset, before the opening statements even began. The candidates came on stage, and Inslee cajoled McKenna into coming out from behind his lectern, shaking hands at the center of the stage, and waving to the crowd. What that did for Inslee was give him a chance to stand right next to McKenna and show that he's at least taller and more strongly built than his opponent.
Goldy: McKenna promises health care fairies (geckos?) will fix everything if the ACA is repealed, saying he looks forward 500,000 more people added to WA's Medicaid rolls, while ignoring the fact that ACA repeal will take away the federal funding.
Eli: And, very quickly, we've moved on from health care. I think Inslee won that round, mostly because McKenna was on the defensive the whole time. Now they're talking education...
Goldy: So disappointing that Inslee refuses to even discuss new revenue as a possibility for funding education. Makes him sound no more substantive than McKenna's "reform first" agenda.
Eli: McKenna commits to finding the additional $3 billion that's needed for our schools—without raising taxes. Which means he'd have to cut elsewhere.
Goldy: McKenna: "41 other states have charter schools." Yeah, and 42 other states have a personal income tax, but I don't hear McKenna arguing we should have that. Yeah, I know that "41 other states" line is probably rhetorically effective, but it's hypocritical bullshit, and it pisses me off.
Eli: In terms of sounds bites—not in terms of the realism of actually finding the money—I hear Inslee promising to find $1 billion more for schools and McKenna promising to find $3 billion.
Goldy: If you base your vote on which candidate talks faster, McKenna is the clear winner so far.
Eli: Inslee suggests McKenna is using "fault math" on his budget promises. Goldy, I think your term for it was McKenna Math?
Goldy: Yes, "McKenna Math." It's what allows McKenna to promise to spend billions more on education and health care, without raising any new revenue.
Eli: And, as Inslee slams McKenna on stage for his faulty math, Inslee's campaign sends out the following "Fact Check":
FALSE Republican Rob McKenna says we can find $3 billion for education in the next biennium.
TRUE Rob McKenna has already been fact-checked for his statements regarding his empty education promises. McKenna’s education promises add up to billions in new spending, leaving “big questions” about how he’ll pay for it.
McKenna’s campaign has continuously been hit with questions about whether his proposals really add up and concerns about using “faulty data.”
Goldy: Hey Rob... "small businesses" already get B&O tax relief. It's just that your definition of "small" is much larger than that of most small businesspeople.
Eli: McKenna is asked which state environmental standards he wants to roll back, since he's been talking a lot about how the state shouldn't be exceeding federal environmental standards. "An example would be shorelines management," McKenna responds—to many levels of regulation for them, he says. And why would we do that? "So that, frankly, we can achieve more goals for cleaning up contaminated areas along shorelines." Inslee responds by accusing McKenna of wanting federal environmental regulations that may be good enough for places like Alabama, "but not fit for Washington State."
Goldy: Inslee takes McKenna to task for wanting to "harmonize" state and local environmental standards with federal ones, "federal standards that maybe are fit for Mississippi and Arkansas, but not fit for Washington state." McKenna responds by saying Inslee "never met a regulation he didn't like." Baby.
Eli: Inslee hits McKenna for his limited budgeting experience, and the fact that he was "deposed" by his Republican colleagues on the King County Council when he was budged chair—and that the budget he pushed was way out of balance.
Goldy: Inslee doesn't mention it, but I've been told that at the time, McKenna thought his political career was over. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
Eli: McKenna, given an opportunity to ask Inslee a question, asks him why he voted for bills that contributed to the housing crisis by allowing people to get mortgages with no money down. Inslee responds that he voted against the deregulation on Wall Street—and that the fact that he was out-voted on that issue was a more significant contributor to the housing crisis. "Now Rob, I don't blame those homeowners for the situation," Inslee says of people allowed to get no-money-down loans. "Apparently you do." Inslee repeats: He places the majority of blame for the housing crisis on Wall Street.
Goldy: Style note: Inslee is playing the anecdote game, which I think works for him. It makes him look familiar with the state as whole. McKenna is coming off as a bit more lawyerly, which worked well for him as Attorney General, but I'm not sure is the best look for a gubernatorial candidate.
Eli: Agree. I also think Inslee is benefiting a lot from low expectations here. He hasn't fallen on his face once, and given all the talk of him being a lightweight on state issues, the relative mastery of state issues that he's showing will be seen as impressive. He's been able to tangle with McKenna all the way up and down the various levels of wonkery at play here—federal, state, and as local as all those businesses he's name-checking in smaller cities throughout Washington.
Goldy: McKenna predicts "as a matter of law" that he will go to the Supreme Court and overturn the lower court ruling tossing out the two-third's supermajority requirement. But then McKenna is a crappy attorney, so take that with a grain of salt.
Eli: Inslee closes saying he knows the state "deeply," and that he will get up every morning to help "180,000 people"—where did he get that number? there are over 6 million people in Washington!—live up to their full potential.
Goldy: Oh my god! I agree with McKenna on his opposition to revenue sharing with tribal casinos. (It's a complicated issue, and I have to admit that McKenna seems to understand it.) Inslee follows up that he agrees, so no distinction there.
Eli: And McKenna's close was equally anodyne, all in all.
Goldy: A lot of fluff in McKenna's closing. Attempting to draw contrast with Inslee, McKenna says: "I believe that we should create more private sector jobs, not public sector jobs." Problem is, that's the Inslee he was expecting to run against rather than the Inslee who is actually running.
Eli: My take: This was indeed less exciting than the AG's debate. Less contentious and, surprisingly, less contrasty. I thought Inslee did better than expected for sure, and that he also did well not just relative to the low standards that had been set for him, but by any standard. McKenna did not seem to have the lust for the jugular that pretty much seethes out of Reagan Dunn's pores, and while he was well versed on the issues as always, he was definitely not inspiring or optimistic. I don't know if Inslee was inspiring either—though he was closer to inspiring, and certainly more optimistic.
Goldy: So… who won? I agree with Eli that Inslee exceeded expectations, and that's a win for him. I also think that Inslee got stronger as the debate went on. It's not that McKenna didn't hold his own—he came off as knowledgable and well informed (even if some of his knowledge was really misinformed)—but again I agree that he wasn't at all inspiring. Or particularly likable. So I'd say that gives the edge to Inslee.