OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s candidates for governor participated in the only debate ahead of the upcoming general election on Wednesday.
Democratic incumbent Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Loren Culp were asked about several topics, including pandemic response, jobs, systemic racism, police reform and wildfires.
Inslee spent the majority of his time speaking to his response over the last eight years, while Culp, who has never held public office and who has run on a platform of smaller government, was highly critical of the governor.
The debate began with both candidates discussing their pandemic response plans. Inslee, who has led the state since the start of the pandemic, talked about how his mandates have saved lives.
Earlier on in the pandemic, Inslee issued restrictions to businesses across the state in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic and also enforced a statewide mask mandate, which Culp has been highly critical of.
“Our efforts against this pandemic are working,” Inslee said. “It’s saving lives and we ought to keep doing it.”
“The problem is when we have one person sitting in the governor’s office telling everyone what they’re going to wear, whether they’re going to go to work or whether they’re not going to work,” Culp said.
The governor criticized his opponent, saying he has not taken the pandemic seriously.
Culp has held rallies across the state with hundreds of people ignoring social distancing guidelines and not wearing masks. When asked about his actions potentially leading to more people dying or prolonging the pandemic, Culp said he is not against masks, but is instead against the government forcing people to wear them.
On the topic of jobs, Inslee was questioned about Boeing’s recent departure from western Washington.
“I believe these planes should be made here. We have the best workers in the world on this, to go elsewhere did not make sense,” Inslee said, adding that it is disappointing that Boeing did not approach the state to ask how the two could work together to keep manufacturing in Everett.
Culp was also asked about keeping jobs in western Washington and pointed to his experience building up his own construction company.
“I started my business with one single employee and an old truck,” Culp said. “I built that up over 20 years, where I had multiple trucks and crews doing jobs all around Puget Sound.”
He then went on to say that Washington is not a business friendly state, which Inslee rebuked by pointing to the influx of people moving to Washington for jobs over the past few years. He also noted that the state has seen its highest rate of GPD growth under his leadership.
Another topic that has been at the forefront of Washington politics is police reform and civil unrest in response to the deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers.
Moderators asked Inslee about his comments earlier this year, when he said he was unfamiliar with CHOP – the abandoned Seattle Police precinct occupied by protesters. Inslee said he could not comment on his quote, but said he was aware of the issue at the time since he had deployed the National Guard to the area.
Culp, who is the police chief and only officer in Republic, has routinely denied systemic racism is a problem in policing and said the governor was soft on crime. Culp’s own policing has drawn scrutiny from some as he has refused to enforce Washington’s new stricter guns laws, which were approved by voters.
Inslee said Culp himself is breaking the law by not enforcing it, but Culp responded saying officers have discretion of what to enforce.
The two candidates spoke at large about their stances to current issues facing Washington throughout the one hour debate. If you missed it, you can watch it in full here:
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