A feisty 2nd Murray-Rossi debate

Oct 17, 2010, 8:08 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

The second debate between Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi was oddly familiar. On many topics, candidates repeated their statements from first debate verbatim, but they were more feisty toward the end of the hour.


AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Rossi began with his opening line from the last debate: America is in trouble. If we don’t have a course correction in this election, we’re going wake up 24 months from now in a country we don’t even recognize. But then he expanded and talked a little about his family.

“The greatest blessing in my life is my wife,” he says. She encouraged him to run for office knowing it would be difficult on their family. “What kind of country do you want our children growing up in? You’re in a position to do something about this,” she told him.

In her opening comment, Murray also repeated much of her statement from the Eastern Washington debate. “Families in our state are struggling. They’ve lost their jobs and their homes and their pensions, not because of anything they did, but because of the mismanagement and greed on Wall Street thousands of miles away from here,” she says. “This state is my family. My family is hurting.”

The first question brought up something else we already know – both candidates have been running negative campaign ads. If elected, what will you do for the people of Washington? KOMO TV debate moderator Dan Lewis challenged the candidates to say what they’d do, without slamming their opponent.

Did they? On this one question, yes.

Senator Murray talked about working with communities to create jobs, while Rossi mentioned his experience balancing the largest state deficit in state history when he was leader of the State Senate Ways and Means Committee.

When asked to outline three things each candidate would do “to get us out of this economic mess.” They each came up with two. Rossi talked in general terms about challenges businesses face because of uncertainty in Congress. He says companies need modest taxation and fair and predictable regulation. Murray spoke of targeting funds for communities and keeping credit flowing to small businesses.

Lewis again asked for specifics with another question – what cuts will each candidate propose to balance the federal budget?

Murray says she voted to cut $14 billion from the President’s budget. Along with voting to freeze her own pay, she says she nixed the Housing and Urban Development agency’s request for a new facility.

“I told them not this year. We can’t afford that right now,” Murray says. “I know how to make those tough responsible cuts.”

Rossi’s answer focused on how much Senator Murray has changed in the past 18 years in office. Her support of earmarks is an example of that, he says.

“Senator Murray requested $20 million in earmarks for 17 former staffers who are now lobbyists, who in turn contributed over $80,000 to Senator Murray’s campaign,” he says. “Until this budget is balanced, we need to ban earmarks.” He didn’t offer a suggestion as to what he’d cut from government spending.

A viewer wanted to know how Murray and Rossi would help keep a company like Boeing in Washington, especially since Boeing has moved its headquarters and a new assembly line out of state in the last few years.

Rossi repeated something he’s said before, “I’ve asked Senator Murray, since she likes to be called the Senator from Boeing, where are you from Chicago or South Carolina?” He says we have to help all businesses be successful, and that’s not through earmarks.

Murray did not acknowledge Rossi’s “where are you from” comment. She says Boeing and other businesses need a good infrastructure and skilled work force and provide a “competitive, creative spirit.”

Less scripted and more passionate answers came in a discussion about immigration reform.

Rossi says we need a “virtual Ellis Island” where the government can know who’s coming to the United States to live and work. Until we secure the borders, all the arguments about what to do are academic, he says.

A detailed plan of making sure people learn English and have a pathway to citizenship is important, Murray says. She supports the Dream Act .

“It simply says that if you came here at a young age, worked your way through school, got good grades, that you can go to college for two years or serve in our military for two years and get on a path to citizenship so you can become a legal citizen and don’t have to live in the shadows.”

When asked about what to do with the children of immigrants who are born in the U.S., Rossi says he “hasn’t heard a good solution yet and I’m open to ideas.”

“It’s kind of like you’re in a row boat out in the middle of a lake and you have water coming in the bottom of the boat,” he says. “The first thing you have to do is seal up the hole in the bottom of the boat, then you figure out what you’re going to do from there.”

On the controversial subject of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Rossi said he’s waiting for a Pentagon study on the issue before he decides how to vote. Senator Murray reiterates that she supports repealing the policy.

The candidates also had a chance to ask each other anything they’d like. This was an interesting question that seemed to catch them by surprise.

Murray asked Rossi how he can support giving a tax cut to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans? How is he going to pay for the extra $1 trillion dollars in cuts for the richest people in the country?

Rossi didn’t answer the question directly, but says his staff counted 252 times where Murray has raised taxes. “Kinda stopped counting after that,” he says, “We only have so many hours in the day. He says Murray will continue to raise taxes if voters give her six more years in office.

The question he wanted Murray to answer involved trade and bill that she voted for which “sparked off a tariff war with Mexico.” That has cost our agricultural community tens of billions of dollars that we won’t get back, he says.

Murray explained this is a safety issue involving having trucks inspected before they can enter the United States.

“What is interesting to me is,” Murray says. “I just answered your question Mr. Rossi, but you didn’t even go anywhere near to answering my question about how you were going to pay for a nearly trillion dollar tax promise to the wealthiest of Americans.”

“I answered your questions,” he responded. “It’s just not your answers which happen to be higher taxes, bigger government, more spending.”

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A feisty 2nd Murray-Rossi debate