By Lynnwood Times Staff
Olympia, Wash., October 7, 2020 – TVW Studios in Olympia was the scene of Washington state’s only gubernatorial debate between Governor Jay Inslee (D) and Police Chief Loren Culp (R). The event was sponsored by AARP of Washington and Seattle CityClub. The moderators for the debate were: Essex Porter, KIRO 7, Brandi Kruse, Q13, Chris Daniels, KING 5, and Melissa Santos, KCTS/Crosscut.
The hourlong debate format consisted of opening statements, timed answers and rebuttals with an optional moderator follow-up, and closing statements.
According to a statement from Tina Podlodowski, Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, on the outcome of the debate, Culp is “reckless, irresponsible, and unfit to lead.” In her statement she further criticized Culp’s ability to provide solutions to working families, seniors and small businesses.
Caleb Heimlich, Chair of the Washington State Republican Party, was pleased with Culp’s performance and with the Republicans chances in the general election.
“Loren Culp won the debate tonight. When confronted on his eight years of mismanagement, Governor Inslee predictably defaulted to blaming Trump at every turn. Loren Culp effectively highlighted Governor Inslee’s record of failures on Western State Hospital, the Department of Corrections, the Unemployment Insurance fiasco, being clueless about lawlessness in Seattle and lying to the voters about raising taxes.
“Voters have the choice to bring common sense, accountable government back to this state. The gubernatorial debate made one thing very clear: it is time to make a change in the Governor’s mansion.”
Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP)
Culp, 59, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army and small business owner, is the current Police Chief of Republic a town of 1,100 in eastern Washington. In November of 2018, Culp was the first police chief in the state to take a stand against the gun restriction initiative I-1639.
During the debate, Culp accused Inslee of being “soft on crime” on his handling of CHOP – a six block area outside of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct taken over by demonstrators and dubbed an autonomous zone – that left three people dead, millions of dollars in property damage, and led to the resignation of Seattle Police Chief, Carmen Best, the city’s first and only black female police chief.
Inslee, 69, currently seeking a third consecutive term as governor, defended his actions of sending in unarmed National Guardsmen at the early days of the riots leading up to the formation of CHOP.
“General Daugherty who I think is a fantastic general… did not believe that more firearms were the answer to magnify and give potential violence to this situation.”
The topic of CHOP became contentious as the moderator pointed out inconsistent statements by the governor to knowing of the formation of CHOP. In a June 10 presser, Inslee stated he had no clue what was happening.
“Well, that’s news to me so I’ll have to reserve any comment about that,” Inslee said at the presser. “I have not heard anything about that, from any credible source. Not that you’re not credible, just before I espouse an opinion, I should know of which I speak.”
Yet at last night’s debate, Inslee confirmed he was aware of the danger.
“Well listen, if you look at the facts of that situation, I could not have been oblivious to it because I actually deployed the Washington State National Guard,” Inslee said.
On the topic of ending qualified immunity, Inslee advocated for a citizen task force to propose solutions to police reforms. Culp added clarity to the question.
“Well, I don’t agree with the way you form that question. Qualified immunity does not protect abusive officers. Officers are prosecuted all the time for committing crimes.”
Culp continued, “Any time an officer abuses their power they should be held accountable. I’m all for that.”
Both candidates stressed the need for access to mental health services as a potential opportunity to reduce violence.
“We’ve had some disasters where police are called, and people have been in mental health crisis,” said Inslee. “I think we need to find a way to deal with those mental health challenges to prevent some of this violence.”
Culp countered criticizing Inslee’s leadership ability in allowing the decertification of Western State Hospital and the loss of more than 50 million per year in federal funds for mental health.
“I’ve dealt with people in mental health crisis and the mental health system in this state is a joke and he [Inslee] had eight years to do something about it, but he lost certification of Western State Hospital and with that went hundreds of beds and millions of dollars from the federal government for a mental health system in this state.”
Culp was asked how he could invest in mental health and addiction problems since he promises to slash the state budget. Culp answered that the state government is already “spending and wasting millions and millions of dollars across the state on mental health and drug addiction programs that are not working.”
Culp cited “individual freedom and liberty” when questioned about conducting large campaign rallies during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also pointed out unfair inconsistencies to the application of COVID restrictions.
“As governor I would put out the information with medical professionals…then let free individual citizens decide what’s best for themselves their family and their business.”
“You can’t tell me that a Barber with one customer in the store can’t cut that person’s hair safely and protect him and his customers, but a marijuana store, an abortion clinic, or big box store is ok to open with 100 or 200 people in it?”
For over 200 days, Washingtonians have been adhering to the COVID mandates. Inslee stated that because Washington has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, is a testament that his plan is working and saving lives.
“Washingtonians are not listening to Donald Trump and frankly Chief Culp. They are wearing masks, they are socially distancing, and as a result of that, we have lowered our rate of infection dramatically.”
When questioned on his capability to reopen Washington, Inslee said, “We are opening our economy.” He continued, “We have opened bowling alleys, more restaurant activity, wedding parlors, agrobusiness and that will continue in the next few weeks.”
Boeing and the Aerospace Industry
Moderators took aim with Inslee’s relationship to Boeing by allowing him to clarify past statements which he said he felt “Boeing threatened” and “mugged him” for tax breaks. Inslee defended his approach stating “the citizens of this state should be treated fairly and that means as Boeing’s future improves, which it will, we want them to be inspired and incentivized to come build planes here and this is one way to do it.”
When questioned that he may lack the experience to both deal with large global companies such as Boeing and to secure aerospace jobs in the region, Culp responded by criticizing Inslee’s broken promises to not raise taxes and how those decisions eroded trust businesses have with the state.
“This is a governor who promised eight years ago that he would not raise taxes and he has lied to us thirty-three times. The state budget has almost doubled under his [Inslee’s] tenure and when I’m Governor, this will be a business-friendly state. Businesses like Boeing will want to come here and stay here.”
Inslee rebutted, “We had the highest rate of GDP growth a year or two ago under my stewardship. Our state has been named the best place to do business by Business Insider and CNBC named it the best place to live and that’s why people are moving here like crazy.”
Racial Disparities and Inequities
Culp stressed that inconsistent enforcement of the law is a driver of racial inequality and criticized Inslee’s record for the high number of unsolved murders within the Native American community.
He further added that the system that has fostered systemic racism has been controlled by Democratic leaders for the last 35 years.
Culp committed to enforcing hate crimes in Washington to “root those [racist] people out when they commit crimes.”
Inslee denounced President Trump for fanning “the flames of division.” He committed to independent evaluations and investigations to address possible bias within the criminal justice system.
Inslee concluded the topic conveying the need to overcome racial disparities in health care.
“They [Republicans] actually want to take it away from 800,000 Washingtonians. I can’t see how this makes us a more equal position.”
Wildfires and Climate Change
The candidates especially sparred on the causes of the wildfires plaguing The Evergreen State.
Culp does not deny that the climate changes but insists that the causes of the fires stems from “state-level mismanagement” of the forests rather than climate change.
“We don’t log our forest and replant them, we don’t thin the forest, we don’t clean up the carbon on the forest floor and we’ve been shutting down road access which limits firefighters to get back and fight these fires.”
Inslee then pivoted to blaming President Donald Trump for slashing federal support which contributed to the state’s backlog in forest management.
Culp committed to a spending freeze with strategic bottom up cuts as opposed to across-the-board cuts.
“I’m not going to do like the current governor suggests all the time, across-the-board cuts… It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Across-the-board cuts are the politician’s lazy way of doing things.”
To address the 701-million-dollar transportation budget shortfall, Inslee shared that his administration has cut half a billion by executive action in the past two months. He committed to a big capital budget to put people to work but emphasized the need for “rational” cuts.
Culp criticized Inslee for paying $164,000 a week in taxpayer resources to McKinsey, a global consulting firm, for assistance on the virus response, a no-bid contract worth $5 million.
“How many businesses that he put out of business would that have helped,” Culp said. “How many small mom and pop shops would that have helped?”
Inslee defended himself by hitting back at Culp for not wearing masks at his rallies saying that it shows a lack of leadership in Culp by “hobnobbing” with “Trumpians.”
“It’s too dangerous to have a mini-Trump right now in the middle of this pandemic,” Inslee added. “I’m in favor of saving lives. I’m in favor of following science. Our efforts against this pandemic are working. It’s saving lives and we’re gonna keep doing it.”
Leadership and Governance
The moderators shifted to state mismanagement citing the controversies that have consumed the Inslee administration for the past eight years – the closing and decertification of Western State Hospital which included the loss of $50 million in federal funding for mental health and recent mass unemployment fraud at the start of the coronavirus crisis costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I care about them and I want to do everything humanly possible to help them,” Inslee replied when asked why voters should trust him to lead the state for another four years.
“We have been moving heaven and earth to get people’s checks to them who are entitled…I hired 1,300 people. I’ve brought in the national guard. They’ve done a great job,” Inslee said.
At the height of his tenure as Republic Chief of Police, Culp was the head of a police force of two officers including himself. When asked how that qualifies him to govern the lives of over seven and a half million Washingtonians, Culp replied that he is “not running to be the leader of you.”
“I will be the governor that understands the servant role of the governor and I will run the executive branch of the state government and you will run your business and your life,” he said.
Culp called out Inslee for invoking the specter of President Trump during the debate, saying that he looks to blame someone else rather than himself for his failures. Culp especially took issue with Inslee for diminutively mocking Culp supporters calling them “Trumpians.”
In their closing statements, both candidates emphasized different themes. Inslee cited his accomplishments in education, healthcare, the economy and combating coronavirus. Culp emphasized that Washington needs a change of leadership citing another of the administration’s failures by not fixing a glitch in the Department of Correction’s software that resulted in thousands of felons released.
“Two murders have happened because of that and people have re-offended,” Culp said. “Our governor is soft on crime and does not care about citizens’ safety.”
Video of the 2020 Gubernatorial Debate