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WA gov: Debate 1

A vigorous debate this afternoon in Spokane (watchable on TVW) between the two main candidates (almost certainly the two who will face each other post-primary) for Washington governor, Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee.

They were not greatly imbalanced. McKenna talked faster, whipped through bullet points with crisp precision, probably got in more effective digs at Inslee than Inslee did of him, and scored more points in a formal debate sense. He also seemed a little cold and off-putting, even a little technocratic. Inslee was a little slower-paced, made fewer specific points and sometimes fuzzed those, but conveyed more of a sense of an overarching sensibility. He seemed a little warmer and more approachable. Both came across as smart and knowledgeable.

The debate was cordial, but both were careful to draw distinctions between them on almost everything. Toward the end McKenna remarked that “It’s good to have a strong contrast; we clearly have that here” (and they did) on the two-thirds voting requirement for legislative imposition of taxes. Attorney General McKenna supported it as policy, not just as a legal case, saying the voters were right to build a higher wall to passage of a tax after the state had raised a number of them over the years. Inslee’s response was that “It is a principle of democracy that we have one person, one vote.” The two-thirds requirement gives more clout to a person one one side of an issue.

The debate focused on the economy, education and budget matters. Asked about charter schools – there’s a prospective ballot issue to allow for some of them in Washington, overturning the current ban – McKenna said he would vote aye, while Inslee was in opposition.

These points could be among the keynotes of the campaigns to come, along with a couple of other comments each made. McKenna’s closing included the comment that “In Olympia, all we hear are excuses.” That almost sounds like a counterpoint to a comment Inslee made earlier, about concerns of a “my way or the highway” approach to governance – a reference he made directly to Republicans in Congress but which might also be applied to states like Wisconsin.

More debates to come. Watch them develop.

UPDATE: WHO WON? Self-selecting polls are never to be trusted too much, as they’re subject to gaming. But presumably since both sides may have had a crack at it, here’s the Seattle Times‘ online poll (self-selecting) at midday Wednesday on who won: McKenna 48.2%, Inslee 47.2%. A wash.

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