McKenna commits to 15 gubernatorial debates

Candidates bicker over debates and unresponsiveness to stakeholders




Attorney General Rob McKenna has committed to participating in 15 gubernatorial debates, one-upping former Congressman Jay Inslee’s call in December for six debates.

McKenna, a Republican, in a press release Monday, challenged Inslee to the 15 debates and provided a detailed list of the events, including an August debate in Vancouver hosted by The Columbian.

“This is not a sinister political move,” said Charles McCray III, communications director for McKenna’s campaign. “We have all the (debate) invitations. It’s just time for us to move forward with it.”

McKenna criticized Inslee, a Democrat, for being unresponsive to an invitation for June 12 debate sponsored by the Association of Washington Business.

Inslee promptly launched a counter attack with his own press release. His office called McKenna’s announcement a “duck-and-cover debate plan.”

Jaime Smith, spokesperson for Inslee’s campaign, said McKenna announced the 15 debates as way to cover up his recent record of skipping meetings with key stakeholders, including the Washington Education Association, the Washington State School Directors and City Club of Tacoma. Smith said McKenna also has declined to respond to questionnaires from Washington Education Association, Washington Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, Washington State Labor Council, American Federation of Teachers and Washington Federation of State Employees.

“Unfortunately, there have even been some events we’ve had to put on hold because McKenna told the organizers he wasn’t willing to commit until after the May filing deadline or an agreement was reached on a separate June event,” Smith said in a statement.

The press release did not address whether Inslee would participate in the Association of Washington Business debate.

Smith was not immediately available early Monday but was expected to give interviews to media later Monday.

Jocelyn McCabe, vice president of communications for the Association of Washington Business, said both candidates have been invited to the June 12 debate. Inslee’s office still has not declined or accepted the invitation. The association has hosted the first gubernatorial debate for every election since 1992, McCabe said.

“We are very hopeful both candidates will participate,” McCabe said.

Updated: 3 p.m.

Jaime Smith, press secretary for Inslee’s campaign, confirmed Monday that Inslee does not plan to participate in the Washington Business Association debate. The campaign, however, has not notified the association directly.

“That is because initially when they sent the invitation, we said we would work with them to schedule the date,” Smith said. “By their own admission, they issued a statement of the debate date before we were able to confirm our attendance. … It became clear they had more of a political agenda than a civic one, so we won’t be attending.”