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Linda Thomas

Jock versus nerd in WA governor's race

Listen to Jock versus nerd in Washington governor's race

It's Jay Inslee versus Rob McKenna in the third debate for governor. If we turn back time to their high school years, it was jock versus nerd - quarterback and class president - competing for attention.

"I was a high school quarterback, played on the basketball team. Kind of a straight arrow kind of guy," says Inslee.

"I'm trying to think of the phrase we would have used in those days, geek or a nerd," says McKenna. "Certainly not one of the cool kids."

InsleeMcKennaHSWhile there are many ways to compare the two candidates for Washington governor KING 5's Robert Mak did a fascinating "Up Front" special looking their high school years.

Rob McKenna, 50, was born in San Antonio and moved around a lot because his father was in the military. When his dad retired, he wanted to settle in an area that had good schools.

The family's last move was to the Lake Hills development in Bellevue, where McKenna went to Sammamish High School.

"I think what a lot of us have in common, who grew up in the military, is an ability to adapt," McKenna says. "As you're moving every few years, you're making a new set of friends."

Classmates recalled that Rob dressed neatly and enjoyed research trips to the University of Washington library in the pre-Internet years.

McKenna campaigned to be class president. One of the high school's concerns was a messy lunch room. He came up with the idea to charge a 25 cent deposit for a tray which would then be refunded when the tray was returned. Problem solved.

"I laid out a vision for how we were going to raise money for graduation and for the senior trip. It was fairly practical," he recalls.

Even though he was a geek, he was popular and his first election was an easy win.

McKenna's plan after high school was to join a fraternity at the University of Washington, but his father became ill, so he ended up living at home while getting his UW degree.

"Between my high school graduation and the day I started college he was diagnosed with, and passed away from, cancer. It was pretty sudden and that was very hard for the whole family," he says.

On the other side of Lake Washington, Jay Inslee was playing basketball and football at Seattle's Ingraham High School.

"If I had one day left I'd play basketball, but football is just a gas too, obviously," says Inslee. "They each have their charms."

He was a gifted athlete and his classmates described Jay as being an All American guy.

Inslee says basketball taught him a lot.

"I learned some lessons here on this court," Inslee says as Mak interviews him in the Ingraham gym. "It's the role of a leader to create a common vision and make sure everybody knows which sport on the court they need to be at the right time to help your buddy."

Football taught him some life skills too.

"We didn't have a lot of talk in the huddle, but if my right tackle said, 'look I can take this guy. Let's run a right power' you gotta learn to listen," Inslee says.

In 1969, the Ingraham Rams made it into the state basketball championships. With seconds to go Inslee stole the inbounds pass and they won. The team was invited to the governor's office after that and he remembers sitting in the Governor's chair.

At the age of 61, Inslee would like to sit there again.

So would McKenna, who wasn't a star on the court but was a star debater.

How do you think the quarterback and the class president will do in their third debate Thursday night.

By LINDA THOMAS, I was in debate and drama in high school.

Linda Thomas, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio and one of the most followed local journalists on social media.
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About Linda
Linda is the morning news anchor and features reporter for KIRO Radio. This is her local news blog, with an emphasis on social media, technology, Northwest companies, education, parenting, and anything else that grabs her attention.

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