After two terms as state attorney general, Rob McKenna wants to become the first Republican governor elected in Washington since John Spellman left office in 1985.
“Washington is not a red state or a blue state, it’s a purple state,” says McKenna. “We have a 50-50 split in Congressional representation, we are close to parity in the state legislature, our state has the largest percentage of independent voters in the nation, and it’s a state where I’ve been successful.”
McKenna was an achiever from an early age. He was an Eagle Scout, student body president at the University of Washington where he got a double major, and then to law school.
“My dad grew up during the Great Depression, went to work to help feed his family when he was 11- or 12-years-old. My mom was incredibly energetic and accomplished a lot as a school teacher and as a community volunteer,” he says. “I guess I just inherited their energy and their love for life and service. That, and a little caffeine will get you a long way.”
Washington has a “long way” to go, he says, to create jobs and strengthen public education. Those are two things that are key to McKenna’s election bid, and those are two things that can’t happen without his third focus – state government reform.
Union rules tend to favor paying all workers the same regardless of how effective they are. McKenna says that is “very corrosive” of employee morale and motivation.
“If you look to your right, and the person working next to you is just barely getting by and you’re working a lot harder but you get paid the same, over time that’s going to bring down your motivation to work harder. We’re going to negotiate higher performance with the unions,” McKenna says. “We’re going to make it clear that it isn’t all about a salary schedule and seniority or seat time, it’s about improving performance and rewarding increased performance.”
McKenna isn’t afraid of taking on union leaders, and he thinks union workers will support him because they see government waste and are just as frustrated by it.
“State employees aren’t the problem here, they’re the solution,” he says.
He also believes government reform needs to happen because voters have made it clear they do not higher tax rates.
“They’ve rejected an income tax. They’ve rejected increases in Seattle to license tabs. People are hurting out there, and with an overall unemployment rate last summer of 18 percent you can understand why,” McKenna says. Voters are trying to live within their means, and he says it’s reasonable for the state to do the same.
On her way out of office, Governor Gregoire signed a bill yesterday making same-sex marriage legal in our state. There will likely be statewide, public vote on the issue this fall, as there “should be,” McKenna says, even though he personally does not support gay marriage.
“As a Catholic I feel that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, as a voter I voted in favor of Referendum 71 to provide equal legal rights for same-sex couples, I still think that’s the right law,” says McKenna. “For me it’s not a matter of public policy, it’s a matter of faith. I recognize not everyone holds that view. Once the vote has been taken, my views are set aside. I’m all about enforcing the will of the voters and upholding that law.”
McKenna and opponent Jay Inslee, a Democratic Congressman, both have close to $4 million each saved up for the race ahead. McKenna has had to stop collecting campaign donations because state officials are prohibited from fundraising while the Legislature is in session. He has raised a total of $3.73 million, according to the latest figures from the state Public Disclosure Commission. Inslee has a total of $3.79 million.
By Linda Thomas
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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