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Inslee and McKenna go head-to-head

Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D) went head-to-head on Aug. 29 in the first gubernatorial debate ever hosted at the WSU Vancouver campus.

Moderator Brian Wood, KATU news anchor, asked gubernatorial candidates a series of questions submitted by KATU viewers and readers of The Columbian. The candidates were asked to comment on the Columbia River Crossing project, job creation, full Medicaid expansion and coal shipping.

Although neither candidate referenced concrete plans to address specific issues, they ended up on opposite sides of nearly every question — though both candidates agreed they had no interest in adding new taxes for Washington residents.

“We are going to have higher tax revenues,” McKenna said. “That’s what the state needs to prioritize.”
Both candidates agreed that higher education deserves more funding, a hot-button issue for WSU students since the university announced the most recent tuition increase last May.

“I drove a bulldozer to pay my way through college,” Inslee said. “I now know how difficult it is to see this incredible debt burden that we are putting on our kids. And we’ve got to reverse that.”

The rivalry between candidates was the most prominent part of the exchange. Inslee frequently attempted to undermine McKenna, which McKenna met with retorts that generated laughter from the audience.

When Inslee asked McKenna to produce his tax returns, McKenna refused to engage, stating, “I’m not going to play this game.”

“McKenna was more articulate. He seemed to be more on top of his game,” said WSU Vancouver student, Jacob Schmidt, a senior majoring in public relations. “Inslee looked nervous, he was fidgeting, he seemed less prepared and he was less comfortable.”

The moderator directed Inslee to stay on topic when his speech rambled to other subjects several times during the debate.

“Inslee mentioned healthcare on every single question,” said audience member Monica Santos-Pinnacho, a senior majoring in markeing. “That was his solution for everything.”

Approximately 50 WSU Vancouver students gathered in Firstenburg Student Commons to watch a live telecast of the gubernatorial debate taking place just yards away in the Dengerink Administration building auditorium. Members of the candidates’ campaign staffs and WSU  supporters and sponsors were seated in the auditorium.

The candidates will debate again in Yakima and Seattle in October.

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