Who won the debate?
The partisans didn’t even wait for the first meeting between the two presumptive finalists for governor to end Tuesday. They were tweeting what was obvious to them, that their guy – either Democrat Jay Inslee or Republican Rob McKenna – was winning.
And then there was a “poll” afterward in which partisans could vote on the winner.
Politics as sport – the horse race, the contenders, knock-out punches, grand slams, the post-debate analysis, pre-debate analysis. But what did the voters (fans?) gain from this hour-long exchange? Unless they were brand-new to these candidates, not much. Each recited positions and accusations that have become familiar.
But sometimes at these events, a nugget is revealed. Sometimes a well-rehearsed candidate says something that might not make the consultants happy. Sometimes they speak against interest and we see something we aren’t meant to see but need to.
Two of these moments came at the end of the debate in the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane last week.
Inslee and McKenna were asked about the recent King County Superior Court decision that an initiative requiring a two-thirds vote for the Legislature to raise taxes was unconstitutional. While a two-thirds requirement could be legal, Judge Bruce Heller ruled, it would have to be done by a constitutional amendment, not an initiative or a bill passed by the Legislature itself.
What was the candidates’ position on requiring a super majority for tax hikes, asked moderator Austin Jenkins of Northwest Public Radio.
Despite the directness of the question, Inslee could have hidden behind a legalistic answer. He could have said he agreed with Heller that a constitutional change is needed and then defer to the will of the voters should such an amendment ever reach the ballot.
Instead, he gave an answer that won’t help him much politically. He said he opposes, on principle, an idea that has repeatedly found success among state voters. He said allowing a minority of voters to block something a majority favors upsets the standard of one-person, one-vote.
“I oppose this distortion of a democratic principle,” Inslee said.
“I’m glad the congressman has clarified his position and is now clearly against a rule that 64 percent of the voters approved,” he said. As attorney general, McKenna must defend the initiative, and he predicted the state Supreme Court would overturn Heller. But he overreached when he asserted that the court has already said a two-thirds majority requirement was properly imposed by initiative. The court has never ruled on that point, instead dismissing challenges on legal technicalities.
Next it was McKenna’s turn to speak against his own political interest. Jenkins asked whether the Indian tribes within the state should share gambling revenue with the state and whether tribes should be allowed to locate casinos off reservation.
Inslee went first but didn’t answer the question about shared revenue. When it was his turn, McKenna said he was surprised at Inslee’s omission.
Here it comes, I thought. McKenna will dig into the Republican playbook for a favorite move – call for revenue sharing as is done in other states and accuse Democrats of kowtowing to the tribes in return for campaign contributions. That was the theme of a Republican Governors Association ad against Chris Gregoire in 2008.
But McKenna didn’t do that.
“I personally believe revenue sharing would not be a good idea for our state,” McKenna said. First, he said, because the existing compacts with the tribes are binding. Second, the state should not become reliant on revenue from gambling (or “gaming” as both candidates euphemistically called it).
A third reason, unstated, is that negotiated amendments to existing compacts to allow for revenue sharing would come at a cost, as is the case in those other states. The tribes would expect a near monopoly on gambling and permission to greatly expand its scope.
Still, McKenna took this phony – but very potent – issue off the table, allowing Inslee to say he too opposed revenue sharing without inviting a reprise of those 2008 attack email@example.com