Live blog: Gubernatorial debate at WSU Vancouver

First gubernatorial debate in Clark County in recent memory

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter



Welcome to The Columbian's live blog of the gubernatorial debate at Washington State University Vancouver, the first gubernatorial debate in Clark County in recent memory.

Former U.S. Representative Democrat Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Republican Rob McKenna will duke it out before an audience of about 200 people.

7:45 p.m. Moderator KATU anchor Brian Wood announces that debate may be delayed due to the Republican National Convention. Moderator is explaining that he will read questions posed by the public on KATU and The Columbian.

Inslee supporters are gathered at the entrance of the campus, holding blue Inslee signs and waving and cheering.

The debate in its entirety will be posted at shortly after the debate.

Chancellor Mel Netzhammer of WSU Vancouver makes some introductory comments. says he's excited about hosting the debate.

"We are really thrilled to have you on our campus," he said. "The candidates chose WSU Vancouver for the debate tonight."

"One of the things that's really important is the role of higher education also really includes how we're preparing the next generation of active and prepared citizens in our community," the chancellor says. "Having this event on our campus is one piece of that."

7:50 p.m. Update: Debate is scheduled to start on time after all. Candidates are assembled on stage in the Foster Auditorium at the university.

8:00 p.m. Debate has begun. Wood is introducing candidates.

8:03 p.m. McKenna won coin flip. Wood asks about Columbia River Crossing. There are issues with design

Columbian reader Thom Rasmussen posed the question: "How and where will you find funding for the Columbia River Crossing?"

"CRC is too crucial jeopardize," McKenna says. It's key to regional and national commerce, he says. Fifty thousand from Washington commute over Interstate 5 bridge. "Until questions are answered, I think we need to slow down," he said.

He suggests putting the project funding to voters.

"Failure is not an option in building this bridge," Inslee responds. He believes leaders should follow two principles: Clark County residents have to be heard on the subject, and leaders have to face reality.

"This bridge will not be built unless we as a community figure out how to get light rail on this bridge (in order to get federal funding)," Inslee says.

8:09 p.m. Wood asks how each candidate how they plan to add jobs for the 9 percent of the population that is unemployed. Inslee goes first.

"Building the (I-5) bridge is one of the most direct things we can do" to add jobs, Inslee says.

He suggests policy to stop restraining small businesses.

Clark County has lost 7 percent of jobs since the recession, McKenna says. He says future governor needs to listen to business owners. Business owners tell him that they need tax relief, regulatory relief, workers compensation reform and unemployment reform to grow their businesses.

Inslee responds: "We use intellectual talent to build new industry." Bio-tech, clean energy are nascent industries for the state that can be built with helpful policy. He says he has a plan to protect intellectual property.

McKenna says it's not the state's job to restructure the economy; business owners need a friendly-business climate so they can do their thing.

Inslee responds that his opponent's labor and industries proposal has been rejected by voters three times.

Question: Should Washington state pursue the full Medicaid expansion?

Inslee says everyone in room is paying about $1,000 per year to pay for people who don't have insurance, indirectly. He calls it a hidden tax in insurance bill. He believes federal funding should be used for Medicaid.

McKenna says under new standard nearly one in three Washington residents would be eligible for Medicaid. "Is that the future we want?" he says.

Inslee says everyone should be able to buy insurance and have a way to fund it. (A growing number of Clark County residents lack health insurance, according to a census report today).

Columbian reader asks, "Will you be strong enough for education to brave to the wrath of voters to raise taxes?"

McKenna replies that voters have repeatedly rejected higher tax rates.

However, "We are going to have higher tax revenues," he says. About $11.3 billion of additional tax revenue is projected to flow into state treasury. "That's what the state needs to prioritize," McKenna says.

8:24 p.m. Wood asks about how candidates will address increasing tuition.

Inslee says the state needs to find private sector lean practices to use in government agencies. The money saved from efficiencies could be used for funding K-12 and higher education.

He would like to see more preventative health care in school systems.

McKenna says increased funding for higher education hasn't happened. The people running Olympia have cut higher education funding, he says. He says Inslee voted to cut state's contribution to higher education.

"The only way ... is to dedicate more of the state budget than we have (to education)," McKenna says.

Inslee responds that it's important to look at records of candidates.

"The first time the Republicans had control of the state Senate, supported by my opponent, they cut $74 million out of education. I understand my opponent's desire to say he will cut state agencies. The fact is six times in a row when we were in tough financial situations he asked for additional funding for his agency."

McKenna calls it a "falsehood" that he supported a Republican budget for education cuts. He says his office cut $30 million in spending from the Attorney General's Office.

8:30 p.m.

Question: Will you allow coal to be shipped through our state to China?

"The coal will be traveling through our state regardless (due to federal law)," McKenna says.

Longview is desperate for good-paying jobs, and they want these jobs from coal shipment. "Wouldn't we rather have the jobs here especially since the coal has to go through Washington anyway?" McKenna asks. Jobs might go to Canada instead of Washington.

Inslee says that there are potential economic drawbacks from trains bisecting communities. He was having lunch with a councilman from Washougal who told Inslee he's concerned trains will kill the town economically by dividing the town. Inslee says the state needs a cumulative impact study on coal shipments.

New liquor law. KATU viewer says she has to buy liquor in Oregon. Was the change in liquor law a good one?

Inslee says he voted against the change.

McKenna says the state is early in the process, so it's too early to say how liquor prices will fall.

Columbian reader says many Clark County residents shop in Oregon to avoid sales tax. Would candidates support special rules for border counties?

McKenna says current provisions should be maintained, but he doesn't agree with cutting additional sale tax revenues.

Inslee agrees. "We are in trouble in this state," he says. He says he understands why retailers in Clark County are frustrated, but cutting sales tax revenue is not an option.

Question: Would you propose raising taxes?

Inslee says he is not proposing raising taxes. Revenue growth will come from his jobs plan and preventative medicine, he says.

"We are continuing to grow, and that's one reason we have to have the Columbia River Crossing built," he says.

McKenna says he doesn't want to cut home care for the elderly, as Inslee inferred. But McKenna says there needs to be a limit on spending.

There will be a 36.5 percent increase in revenues in next few years, McKenna says. State voters have made it clear they want government to live within its means.

8:42 p.m. Candidates get a chance to ask each other questions.

Inslee asks McKenna why he is exempt from the expectation of releasing tax returns.

"I'm just not going to play this game," McKenna says. His investments and income are public record, he says. He says discussion about disclosure is a distraction from more important issues.

Inslee challenges McKenna: "If this is a distraction, remove it."

McKenna gets a turn to ask Inslee a question. Why haven't the Democrats turned things around since they've been in office?

Inslee says he isn't the one in Olympia right now; he is fresh blood with fresh ideas.

McKenna says Inslee's ideas aren't new, and they haven't worked.

"The concern about what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin is that it's my-way-or-the-highway policy," Inslee says. If the state is going to find a way to build a Columbia River bridge, the state needs bipartisanship and compromise, he says.

McKenna asks why Inslee would "spurn" voters' will for two-thirds majority vote in constitution.

Inslee feels some citizens have more electoral power than others under constitutional rule for two-thirds vote.

McKenna says Inslee would overturn voter will by abolishing constitutional requirement for two-thirds vote. "Two-thirds requirements are not unusual," he says.

Rapid-fire questions. Rules are one or two word answers to questions to help voters get to know candidates.

Huskies or Cougars? Candidates agree on Huskies.

D.B. Cooper is dead? Yes, from both.

State income tax is inevitable. Both disagree.

Aplets for both.

Inslee scorns umbrellas. McKenna calls that "crazy."

Cougars or Ducks? Cougers are the consensus.

8:57 p.m. Candidates are making concluding remarks.

To see KATU's live streaming of the debate,

Jay Inslee

Democrat Jay Inslee, a former U.S. representative, has served as a congressman in both eastern and western Washington for two decades, and he previously served in the state's House of Representatives. He's the author of the book "Apollo's Fire," which advocates for environmentally friendly energy technologies. Inslee, 61, has a law degree from Willamette University and a bachelor's in economics from the University of Washington. He is a graduate of Ingraham High School in Seattle.

Rob McKenna

Republican Rob McKenna, 49, has worked as a lawyer and served as a King County city councilman before being elected as the state's attorney general in 2004. He is president of the National Association of Attorneys General and was named Outstanding Attorney General of the Year in 2011. McKenna, who graduated from Sammamish High School in Bellevue, received degrees in economics and in international studies from the University of Washington. He also has a law degree from the University of Chicago.