Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

LIVE from Seattle U: Ladenburg, McKenna square off in Attorney General debate

The final scheduled debate between Democrat John Ladenburg and Republican Rob McKenna - the two candidates for Attorney General who will appear on the November ballot - is happening now at Seattle University's Piggott Auditorium.

The debate is co-presented by CityClub and the Seattle Times. Moderating is Diane Douglas; panelists include Jim Vesely (Times editorial page editor), Jaime Hawk (2007-2008 President of the WSBA Young Lawyers Division), and Kelley Testy (the dean of the Seattle University School of Law).

Moderating the debate is Diane Douglas. The agreed-to rules are:
During the first round of questions, each panelist will ask the candidates two questions. For their second question, each panelist will have the option of asking a follow-up question to their first question or asking a different question. For the second round, the format will be the same, but each panelist will ask 4 questions instead of two. Each candidate will have 1 minute to answer each question. There are no formal rebuttals. The first round will comprise of questions related to the Office of the Attorney General – scope, approach, experience, etc.

The second round will focus on issues, topics of interest, and special cases. Between the rounds will be a lightning round where the moderator will pose a series of yes/no questions in which candidates will only be allowed to answer by holding up a card indicating their answer as yes, no, or waffle. Diane will then open up the debate to questions from the audience for 10 minutes. At the end, the candidates will have 1 minute to make closing remarks.
The questions so far have been very good, ranging from office diversity to identifying state Supreme Court decisions that the candidates disagree with.

The first lightning round mostly featured questions that the candidates agreed on (Should we build more prisons? No) but there was one big question that the candidates strongly disagreed on, to prolonged laughter: Is the Attorney General's office a good training ground for the office of governor?

McKenna, not surprisingly, raised his Yes card, then Ladenburg raised his No card.

Ladenburg has been focusing on his extensive experience as a prosecutor in this final debate, highlighting his desire to strengthen consumer protection and be more proactive in taking companies to court that break the law.

"Why should you 'Get Jesse' on KING5 News when you can get the Attorney General of Washington State?" Ladenburg asked.

In the second round the candidates were asked about initiative process reform (which is a priority of the Northwest Progressive Institute).

McKenna opined that the Legislature can fix problems that are created by initiative, and stressed that Washington does not allow its Constitution to be amended by initiative, as opposed to states like California, which do.

Ladenburg said he is concerned about the initiative process being hijacked by "big money" saying he favored strengthening public disclosure laws and adding criminal sanctions for lawbreakers. Without actually mentioning Tim Eyman, to chuckles, Ladenburg added, "I think there are people who run initiative factories and make money off of this...I won't name any names..."

Finally, he said he favored allowing constitutional review for initiatives before they make the ballot - something Rob McKenna declared minutes later in rebuttal that he strongly opposes (he believes it is a violation of the seperation of powers).

Ladenburg replied that he believes constitutional review of an initiatve upon qualification to the ballot is in fact constitutional and doesn't violate the seperation of powers because initiatives come from the people, not the Legislature (which is one of the three branches of government).

Jim Vesely just asked the candidates about multi-state lawsuits.

According to Ladenburg, the increase in lawsuits filed by states Attorneys General is because of the federal government's inaction on consumer protection. Ladenburg declared that he would be a more active Attorney General who is constantly safeguarding the people of Washington State.

McKenna spent most of his time trying to explain the difference between leading a multi-state suit and joining one. He got somewhat lost in the weeds as he elaborated, and was cut off by Diane Douglas mid-sentence.

UPDATE: Final question in the second round is a good one, concerning tribal soveriegnty.

Ladenburg explained that most people don't understand that as sovereign nations, the tribes are equal to, and not subordinate of, the State of Washington. A respectful approach is absolutely necessary when negotiating with the tribes.

McKenna agreed and proudly touted the personal relationships he's built with tribal leaders over the last four years in his "journeys" across the state.

We're on to the audience question period.

First audience question concerns the public role of the Attorney General.

McKenna answered first, saying he believes the Attorney General should be as visible as possible. Ladenburg followed, claiming that much of McKenna's so-called public outreach has consisted of photo-ops and press releases rather than any meaningful efforts towards public education. McKenna's office "has issued more press releases than subpoenas," Ladenburg concluded.

UPDATE II: Bruce Ramsey just asked the candidates about Initiative 1000.

McKenna said he'll vote against it (although he explained that his office will vigorously defend the law in court if it is passed), and Ladenburg added that he will also likely voted against it.

UPDATE III: The final question is about the Attorney General's role in the subprime mortgage mess.

Ladenburg again emphasized how important it is to have an aggressive Attorney General who acts quickly to prevent harm to the people of Washington, rather than investigating too slowly or waiting for other states to act.

McKenna claimed he led in putting together the Countrywide settlement (even though Washington was not one of the first states to sue the company, now a division of Bank of America). McKenna noted that the Attorney General's office will be representing the State Investment Board in future action against Wall Street.

UPDATE IV: Closing statements...

Ladenburg urged the audience to compare his resume with Rob McKenna's - for voters, it really is like choosing a personal lawyer, he said. "The Attorney General is a job that needs to be handled very seriously." He closed by teasing McKenna to prepare his transition team,

McKenna noted that he bested Ladenburg in the primary and was looking forward to serving another four years as Attorney General (and, presumably, preparing to run for governor in 2012 if Dino Rossi is not elected).


Post a Comment

<< Home