Following a presidential debate where the most shocking moment wasn’t one candidate calling the other a racist liar and that candidate not bothering to defend himself, a Capitol Hill tilt pitting candidates in the 2016 battle for governor of Washington played out mostly shock free inside Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium. The biggest revelations might have been the gap between progressive Democrats in Seattle and the man many are likely to ultimately back, incumbent Jay Inslee.
On the night, Inslee failed to endorse safe injection sites, said he would never support a state income tax, and the best he could offer on helping to close the divide between police and communities of color was touting the state’s criminal justice training center. But challenger Bill Bryant, vying to become the first Republican to lead the state in 30 years, brought even more alien politics to the stage of the 12th Ave college campus Monday night.
Promising solutions for what he called the state’s biggest issues — “homelessness, education… traffic” — Bryant blamed Inslee for creating a state where “felons, rapists, and murderers have escaped” and bungling his management of the state’s department of transportation, making us all “stuck in traffic” and “emitting carbon.” Along the way, Bryant dissed Sound Transit 3, pledged to push Washington education spending to “51% of the budget” without providing a specific dollar total, and said he opposed raising the statewide minimum wage. Well, that’s not exactly what Bryant said. In a bit of verbal gymnastics, the Republican said he would support a statewide bump — “especially where costs of living have increased.” Bryant said his proposal would create a minimum wage system based on “the regional cost of living.”
Inslee didn’t get to answer the minimum wage question thanks to a slightly stilted debate structured in a “town hall format” from sponsor Seattle City Club’s Washington State Debate Coalition.
Both candidates distanced themselves from support for safe consumption sites even after a joint City of Seattle-King County task force recommended creation of facilities where addicts can use their own drugs under medical supervision. Inslee said he would have to research the issue more but the sites are “worthy of consideration.” Bryant, meanwhile, told a story about meeting with parents in Des Moines “with kids living
in tents somewhere in Seattle.” “Don’t give my kid some place to shoot up,” Bryant said the parents told him, adding that he was reluctant to “enable a felony” on public property. “I’m going to be a tough sell,” Bryant said.
Bryant and Inslee agreed that the state needed to do more to help its cities with homelessness. Bryant blamed Inslee for allowing the state’s mental health resources deteriorate and pledged to “rebuild the mental health system.” Inslee said he inherited a state mental health system that had already been gutted and said that he believed building more affordable housing was the solution to reversing the state’s homelessness trends as “soaring rents” are forcing increased numbers onto the streets. “It’s not just a Seattle problem,” Inslee said. Bryant also talked about his time volunteering as a “night manager” at a Seattle men’s shelter. His takeaway? “Enabling” people to live in tents is “cruel,” not “progressive.”
The candidates will meet again on October 19th in Pasco.
Video of Monday’s full debate is below.