Today’s Sunday edition of the Seattle Times has a story by Olympia correspondent Andrew Garber examining the cost and consequences of Tim Eyman’s I‑1125, which Eyman got on the ballot using a boatload of money from Bellevue Square owner Kemper Freeman Jr. (one of his longtime wealthy benefactors).
Garber saw fit to ask Washington’s two leading gubernatorial candidates what their positions were on the initiative, which imperils key projects like the new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge (which carries SR 520 over Lake Washington).
He got two very different answers:
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate for governor in 2012, has to defend initiatives and can’t comment about the issue, a spokesman said. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, who’s also running for governor, opposes it, saying it “will damage our ability to grow our economy and create jobs.”
So, let’s get this straight: McKenna can’t tell us what his position is because his office might be involved in future litigation over the matter?
Gee, that sounds like an excuse not to have a position on anything.
I recall that when McKenna announced his candidacy back in June, he spoke at length about increasing our investment in education (without saying how he’d actually make that happen). Since McKenna’s office is presently defending the state against a lawsuit which contends that Washington is failing to meet its “paramount duty” of “making ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders”, doesn’t that preclude him, under his own standard, from talking about the sorry state of funding for our public schools and colleges?
I mean, we’re talking about an issue that is before the Supreme Court now, not an issue that might potentially be litigated down the road.
You can see where I’m going with this. McKenna might as well have no campaign platform at all; any issue he talks about — or is asked about — could end up being litigated, and McKenna would have to defend the state if it was sued.
As I said, the excuse offered by his unidentified spokesperson is an excuse that can work to deflect any question about any issue, period.
What McKenna is doing here is hiding in his office, so to speak. He obviously doesn’t want to go on the record about I‑1125. Perhaps that’s because he supports I‑1125, but is afraid of being associated with Tim Eyman.
McKenna is actually the coauthor of one of Tim Eyman’s earliest initiatives — I‑747, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in November 2007 as unconstitutional. (The initiative was reinstated — foolishly — by Governor Chris Gregoire and state lawmakers that same month).
Reporters ought to press McKenna on this matter. If he can’t take a position on I‑1125, how can he take a position on any important issue?
This cop-out on I‑1125 should not go unchallenged.
POSTSCRIPT: A quick search of the NPI Advocate’s own archives, along with those of the Seattle Times, confirms my suspicion that McKenna has previously taken positions on statewide initiatives while he was attorney general.
Here’s an excerpt from a Seattle Times story from 2008, written by Andrew Garber’s colleague Bob Young, which summarizes a debate McKenna had with Democrat John Ladenburg at Seattle University:
Ladenburg and McKenna agreed on a number of issues: Both stressed their respect for tribal sovereignty; both said they’d vote against Initiative 1000, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
I was actually at that debate as well — here’s the relevant excerpt from my report:
Bruce Ramsey [of the Seattle Times] 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.
When Rob McKenna was running for reelection as attorney general four years ago, he disclosed how he’d vote on an important statewide initiative when he was asked — the question is, why can’t he do so now, as a candidate for governor?