Governor Jay Inslee and challenger Loren Culp spar over policy

The only gubernatorial debate occurred last Wednesday. There were some key moments in the debate that reflect the clear difference in approach between the Democrats and Republicans.

Culp opened the debate saying we had a leadership crisis in Washington state. He pointed out that while other people around the state have been harmed financially in the last few months the Governor accepted a pay raise saying he had no control over that. Culp said he found it amazing that while the governor can issue executive orders that effect your pay and your job, he cannot do the same when it comes to stopping his pay raise.

Governor Inslee said we had already accomplished so much together in the areas of improving mental health care, establishing the best family leave program and highest minimum wage program in the country. We’ve accomplished so much in improving education and programs for clean energy. He ended his opening remarks by asking if we were going to step up to fight the COVID pandemic or are we going to belittle it, ignore it or surrender to it. Inslee said he believes strongly that we need to beat this into the ground.

The first question posed by the debate panel challenged the candidates on how they would handle the COVID pandemic.

Culp said he has never said not to practice good safety practices regarding the wearing of masks, but he believes firmly in individual freedom. He said he didn’t believe that a single barber cutting the hair of a single customer can’t protect his customer while an abortion clinic, a marijuana store or big box stores can allow hundreds of customers into their facility based on the decision of one person sitting in the governor’s office. As governor, I would bring in the best doctors and have them explain how to stay safe then allow the citizens to take the steps they believe were necessary to protect themselves.

Inslee said his program is saving lives and that is the primary responsibility of the government. He said we are working to reopen businesses. He follows the Constitution and to date no court has struck down the actions he has taken.

In response to a question about Boeing moving some of its production to North Carolina, Inslee said Boeing owes it to the people of Washington to come back when the economy improves. Culp took the opportunity to explain that Inslee has no private sector experience. He does not understand how his policies have impacted the businesses in the state. Washington is not a business-friendly state. Culp said he has built a business from the ground up and under his leadership Washington will become much more friendly to the businesses that create the jobs.

In a debate over Culp’s inexperience working with large companies, Culp said this governor thinks he is the leader of everyone. He thinks he is the leader of our companies, our families and our children. His job is to run the executive branch of the government not our lives.

“Governor Inslee held up his right hand and promised to uphold the Constitution.. He is failing.. Article 1, Section 7 says that no citizen shall be disturbed in their private affairs. I think that we have been disturbed in our private affairs quite a bit by this governor.”

Culp challenged the governor on his track record on mental health. He said mental health care in this state is a joke. Governor Inslee has had eight years to address the problems and he has done nothing. He lost certification for Western State Hospital, the state mental health care facility, during his term. Culp pointed out that there are too few beds available in the state for mental health care. When a police officer responds to a suicide request, that person is obviously in a mental health crisis. The officer takes that person to the nearest health care facility to see if they can find a bed for the person. There are no beds so the person is released back out on the streets.

Inslee then responded to Culp’s comments by saying they are working on a program to make mental health care a community based program. The problem however is that President Trump and the Republicans want to take away health care. They are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Their program would eliminate coverage for 800,000 Washingtonians. We have to talk about how we pay for health care. Inslee then pointed out that in his opening remarks Culp said he would cut the budget. This is not the time to cut the budget for health care according to Inslee.

Governor Inslee responded to a question from the panel about his initial response to the rioting in downtown Seattle by denying he ever said he was not aware of it. It was a difficult situation because we had tens of thousands of people peacefully protesting. In the middle of that were a number of people who were violently disrupting the peaceful protest.

In his response Culp pointed out that the governor is soft on crime. Culp reinforced his support of the constitution saying people absolutely had the right to peacefully protest, but when they start damaging private property, setting cars on fire, throwing bottles of frozen water at police, breaking windows that is illegal. It is called rioting. Yes, the governor called in the national guard but before he sent them in, he disarmed them. I would never, ever, send our law enforcement into a dangerous situation without the means to protect themselves.

In his rebuttal Governor Inslee said the decision to send in the National Guard without firearms was the decision of the Commanding General of the Washington state National Guard.

Governor Inslee then began to criticize Culp for failing to enforce the gun control laws in his county. Culp’s response was that police officers have discretion about what laws they will enforce and he believes the law is unconstitutional. Culp then accused Inslee of violating his oath of office to support and defend the constitution. Culp then repeated his criticism of Inslee’s refusal to follow the state Constitution. Article 1 section 24 of the state constitution says the right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state will not be impaired.

Panel moderator, Cris Daniels of King5, then challenged Culp on the fact that the state budget is larger than the one he deals with in little Ferry County and asked how he would deal with the state budget. Culp was direct and said as soon as he takes office he would freeze spending. No pay raises, no equipment purchases, we are going to go through the budget line by line. I would go first after anything that has the word study in it.

Inslee argued for a big increase in the Capital Budget to put people back to work. In view of what is seen as a looming budget deficit he did not explain how he would pay for it.

Culp also pointed out that Governor Inslee signed a contract with a global consulting firm for $165,000 per week to help him know what to say in the middle of the Pandemic. Inslee said he had no idea what Culp was talking about. Inslee denied any knowledge of the agreement but The Seattle Times confirmed after the debate that Inslee had in fact signed a contract with McKinsey for $1.3 million to advise him on COVID policy.

On climate change Governor Inslee blamed the recent fires on climate change but Culp disputed that saying the problem is really related to lack of management of our forests. Our forests are full of dead and diseased trees. We have no fire breaks in our forests because of road closures. These fires are worse not because of climate change but because we are not managing our forests. We don’t log them. We don’t replant them. We do not remove dead and diseased trees that ultimately become a source for more intense fires.

This debate established a clear distinction between the Incumbent and the challenger. Inslee has already had eight years to demonstrate effective and compelling leadership of state government. Given that period of time he should have a commanding knowledge of the issues facing our state. Unfortunately, he took no responsibility for the problems or the decisions he has made to address them. He routinely blamed President Trump, the Republicans or others for the failures that have occurred during his administration.

One thing is increasingly clear to those who follow the political process. Government insiders resent and are threatened by outsiders. Inslee has made government service his life’s work and he is clearly threatened.

President Trump and Loren Culp are not career politicians. Culp was clear about his position. He never dodged a question and he offered sound reasoning about how he would handle the office.

Our founding fathers set up a system to allow ordinary citizens to become the leaders of our amazing country.

It is time to send all of the entrenched bureaucrats a message that the American people have lost faith in their leadership.

Culp has a difficult task to overcome the Democrat machine in this state. Republicans have a difficult job in getting out the vote and encouraging their Democrat friends that it is time for a change.



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