Republican candidates confident in 2020 governor’s race against Inslee

Aug 22, 2019, 2:30 PM | Updated: 6:10 pm

2020 governor's race, jay inslee...

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a forum on gun safety at the Iowa Events Center on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

With the news that Governor Jay Inslee is abandoning his presidential campaign and instead throwing his hat in the ring for the 2020 governor’s race in Washington — where the Democratic governor would seek a third term — the Republicans who have already announced gubernatorial campaigns said they are not worried about challenging an incumbent with eight years under his belt.

Loren Culp, the police chief of the Eastern Washington town of Republic who refuses to follow new gun law I-1639, announced his candidacy last month. In addition to his law enforcement background as a police chief and as a narcotics officer, he served in the U.S. Army and owned a small contracting business in the Olympia area for 20 years.

Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn) has represented the 31st Legislative District (South Auburn, Bonney Lake, Carbonado, Edgewood, Enumclaw, and Sumner) in the Washington State Senate since 2017. He served in the Washington State House of Representatives from 1999 to 2000, representing the 47th District. In the private sector, Fortunato started his own business at 18, and has been a contractor for three decades.

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Loren Culp: A hope to appeal to both parties

Culp feels that his key issues in the 2020 governor’s race — namely, controlling crime and cleaning up the streets — are bipartisan ones that should concern both sides of the aisle, and that he can therefore attract the swing voters in the moderate part of the spectrum.

“The people who have common sense in the middle, they see what’s going on with our state government, and how it’s been mismanaged, and all the crime that’s being ignored in this state — people living on the streets and using the sidewalks as bathrooms and a place to dispose of their used needles,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Most of his campaign contributions so far have come from the area that people typically think of as the bluest — the I-5 corridor between Olympia and Everett.

“That’s very encouraging … I think that people on both sides of the aisle are getting tired of the lawlessness and what’s been going on, especially in our major cities,” he said. “They’re rewarding bad behavior, and when you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And I think people are really waking up to it.”

Now that Inslee’s time in the presidential race is over, Culp hopes that Inslee will step up and pay back the taxpayers from his campaign funds for the extra expenses incurred by his Washington State Patrol security detail. He said that Inslee may be within his legal rights to charge the bill for his traveling security detail to Washingtonians, but questioned whether this is, in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “a just law.”

“I don’t think it’s morally right or ethical to expect the taxpayers — hardworking men and women of Washington state — to foot the bill for his security on his run for president,” he said.

Additionally, he pointed out, Inslee still received a paycheck for doing his duties as governor, yet has spent many days out of state, busily campaigning for president in the months since announcing his candidacy.

“Sometimes you just have to do what’s right,” he said, a sentiment he expressed in a Tweet on Thursday.

Fortunato: 2020 governor’s race a chance to highlight Inslee’s failures

Fortunato actually considers donating to Inslee’s campaign as a strategy to prevent other potential Democratic opponents, such as Attorney General Bob Ferguson and King County Executive Dow Constantine, from entering the race.

“I believe he is the weakest of the weak Democratic candidates, so anything that I could do to encourage him to run for a third term would be beneficial to me,” he laughed.

The senator is “under no illusions that it’s going to be easy” running in a state that hasn’t had a Republican governor in over three decades, but Fortunato believes that what he sees as Inslee’s shortcomings during his two terms in office — such as Western State Hospital losing its federal funding — will hurt him in the 2020 governor’s race.

“For eight years, he hasn’t been doing anything on mental health issues … we just want to highlight Inslee’s lack of leadership,” Fortunato said.

Just as in Culp’s campaign, homelessness and crime are Fortunato’s top concern. Fortunato said the main difference between his platform and the status quo policies in the Puget Sound is that he would differentiate between those who are homeless because they have simply fallen on hard times, and those who choose to live a life of lawlessness off the grid.

“What the Democrats want to do is conflate both criminal homeless, and people who are homeless through no fault of their own,” he said. “They want to muddy the waters.”

Fortunato wants to provide services and housing for every homeless person who wants them. The “criminal homeless” who refuse services — including the region’s prolific offenders — would be jailed.

“You need to get them off the streets,” he said. “You can’t have our citizens constantly being under threat.”

Following through with his plan to go tough on crime, in the next Legislative session, Fortunato plans to introduce a bill mandating that those caught spreading graffiti, especially on freeway signs, would not go to jail, but would instead put their sentences toward a positive action — by spending a minimum of 30 days cleaning graffiti around the region.

“It’s getting worse and worse, on the backs of the Washington State Department of Transportation signs over the highway,” he said. “I mean, this is unbelievable that they’re letting these people run amok.”

He also opposes the King County Sheriff’s Office’s recent decision to remove itself from the LInX database — a network of information on criminals shared between law enforcement agencies throughout the state — due to the county’s concerns that Immigration and Customs Enforcement could access the records and use them in deportations.

“It all puts our citizens at risk … the only ones who benefit from that policy are criminals,” Fortunato said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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