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Lt. Governor debate: Candidates explain why Republicans should pay attention

Marko Liias (L) and Denny Heck debate on TV Thursday night ahead of the Nov. election. (TVW screenshot)

With current Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib announcing he won’t seek reelection to instead join the Jesuits, the seat is now open to either Denny Heck or Marko Liias, both Democrats.

Who becomes governor if Jay Inslee accepts a White House cabinet position?

The decision becomes even more important to voters if Vice President Joe Biden were to win the Presidential election and offer Gov. Inslee a role with his administration. However, Inslee has said before that he wouldn’t take the offer.

Voters got a chance Thursday night to compare the two candidates vying for lieutenant governor in a live debate hosted by the Washington State Debate Coalition and TVW.

The first question addressed the fact that both candidates are Democrats — why should Republicans listen tonight and what are the key differences between each candidates?

“We’re going to have a lieutenant governor in January and it behooves every citizen, whether they’re a Democrat, or a Republican, or an Independent, to come to a conclusion about who would best serve the interest of our state,” Heck responded.

He said he offers experience to deal with the impacts of coronavirus on Washington state.

Heck was elected to the 10th District in 2013. Before that, Heck served in the state House of Representatives from 1976 to 1986.

Heck announced his retirement from Congress in December 2019, citing long hours working on potential election interference by Russia.

“The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,” Heck said.

When asked why he doesn’t just step aside and enjoy his retirement, Heck explained that he only said he was retiring from Congress, not all of politics.

When asked why Republicans should pay attention to this race, Liias answered, “I think in politics these days, it can feel like the gulf between us is so deep that we can’t bridge past it. I know that feeling in my own life. Today is actually the anniversary of when I came out to my family and friends. I remember that deep sense of isolation, that disconnection, that maybe I’d lose relationships that were valuable to me. What I learned through that experience is that one label doesn’t define us and that when we bridge those differences, we can find common ground together.”

Liias said he brought those lessons with him to the Senate. He added that he will bring with him to the role a bipartisan record and the relationships that he’s built in the Senate.

Liias has been a state senator since 2014. According to Ballotpedia, Liias served in the state House of Representatives, representing District 21-Position 2 since 2008. Before that, Liias lost in the 2016 primary election in a race for state treasurer. Liias also served on the Mukilteo City Council.

“As the son of immigrants, my parents taught me that education was the path to a better life,” Liias told the Mukilteo Beacon. “Enabling more students to earn high school and college credit at the same time is a common sense way of putting people first and creating more pathways to opportunity for all students.”

Joshua Freed, a Republican, said on his website that his campaign made multiple requests to the debate coalition to be part of Thursday’s debate. He’s asking fellow Republicans to write in his name for lieutenant governor. The former Bothell mayor came in third in the August gubernatorial primary.

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