Politics in Washington can be summed up in one word — “intensity” — Rob McKenna told an appreciative Vancouver crowd Saturday.
The attorney general and gubernatorial candidate was at the Hilton Vancouver Washington for the Clark County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual fundraising event.
He told about 300 people that the intensity was evident in the high turnout for the presidential caucuses, and in the money his organization collected in the short time between the regular and special legislative sessions.
His campaign raised $270,000 in 64 hours, McKenna said. State officials cannot raise funds while the Legislature is in session.
McKenna hit a few points of great interest to Republicans nationwide, such as the lawsuit to strike down portions of new federal health care law. McKenna is one of a group of state attorneys general who have filed the suit, which will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court starting next week.
He said he couldn’t attend the proceedings in the nation’s capital, because he will be heading up a conference on human trafficking in Seattle at the same time.
“And there is no greater intensity around that issue anywhere than there is here in Clark County,” he said.
He praised church and community organizations here for uniting to fight trafficking. He also praised the county’s legislators.
“No county has finer representatives in Olympia than does Clark County,” McKenna said.
His stump speech included references to the county’s persistently high unemployment. State government needs to get out of the way of “job creators,” he said.
And Washington needs to get off the Top-10 list of most expensive states to do business in, McKenna said.
He spoke about the need for cleaning out unneeded regulations, comparing the process to cleaning out his garage after years of accumulating unwanted possessions.
Washington’s education system is “failing our children, failing our communities and failing our employers,” McKenna said.
The state should allow charter schools, and it should pay teachers based on performance, not years on the job, he said.
Education must be a priority in state spending, but the state cannot just spend more without reforming the system, he said.
Higher education and K-12 must be integrated, so that tens of millions of dollars per year aren’t wasted on remedial college courses anymore, McKenna said.
The department he heads as attorney general has shrunk by 15 percent in the last four years, McKenna said, but performs at a higher level now.
That is because he connected his employees’ performance to how much money they make, he said to loud applause.
Earlier in the evening, McKenna spoke about the Columbia River Crossing during an interview with The Columbian.
“Tolls can be a component of funding new infrastructure,” he said. “But first you need a project that has been agreed upon.”
There’s clearly a lack of consensus on the bridge design, he said. He said he lacked the expertise to favor one design proposal over another.
“But voters in the C-Tran taxing district ought to have a say,” McKenna said.
He called light rail “a good technology,” but said it needs to be deployed where it makes economic sense.
“I’m a strong believer in the value of public transit,” McKenna said. “But it has to compete in the market of consumer choices. If you’re just moving people out of buses into trains you’re not achieving much.”
Buses can be part of a more flexible system, he said. They can operate like rail if put into a traffic corridor where they have priority, he said.
“You make the investment that buys you the biggest increase (in ridership),” McKenna said.
Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democratic candidate for governor, still has not agreed to the pair’s first debate, which is scheduled for June 12 in Spokane.
“I certainly want a number of debates, and I want one of them to be in Clark County,” McKenna said.
Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; email@example.com.