Wednesday’s hourlong debate between Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican Bill Bryant didn’t provide much time for heated exchanges, but each candidate managed to get in a few zingers nonetheless.
Here were a few of the most memorable moments from the candidates’ first general election debate.
1. ‘Worst failure’
The biggest laugh-line of Inslee’s debate came when he mocked a $500 donation Bryant made to Inslee’s 1994 Congressional campaign, following relentless attacks from the Republican over the governor’s management of state agencies.
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When Bryant asked Inslee what his “worst failure” was as governor, Inslee at first deflected with humor: “I don’t know, taking that check you contributed to me when I ran for Congress in 1994? Maybe I should have turned that down.”
“Everybody makes a mistake now and then,” Bryant fired back.
Inslee went on to say his biggest regret in office has been seeing an increase in homelessness.
2. Dirty campsites
Bryant opened the debate talking about a lesson he said he learned as a child hiking with his father: “You always leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.”
“Unfortunately, after four years, Gov. Inslee has trashed Washington’s campsite,” Bryant said, citing the mistaken early release of felons from Washington prisons and problems at Western State Hospital.
Later on, Bryant continued the metaphor, saying: “I will provide the leadership we need to ensure that over the next four years we not only clean up our campsite, but build a beautiful campground.”
Unfortunately, after four years, Gov. Inslee has trashed Washington’s campsite.
Bill Bryant, GOP candidate for governor
Inslee then accused Bryant of reducing the role of governor to one of garbage collector.
“I actually don’t think the metaphor of being a trash kind of collector is the right one for governor of the state of Washington,” Inslee said.
“...We should focus much more on our talents of innovation, technical creativity and entrepreneurial zeal, rather than just fixing it with duct tape.”
3. Trump attacks
When allowed to ask Bryant a question, Inslee wasted no time in going after the Republican on his long hesitance to publicly support or renounce GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Inslee has routinely attacked Bryant so far in the campaign for waiting to take a stance on Trump. Bryant said for the first time Monday that he won’t vote for Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton.
I actually don’t think the metaphor of being a trash kind of collector is the right one for governor of the state of Washington.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee
“What virtues or assets did you believe that Donald Trump had that led you to answer to the needs of your party for 242 days instead of standing up against cruelty and divisiveness?” Inslee asked after bringing up many of Trump’s controversial comments, such as his verbal attacks on the family of a Muslim U.S. Army Captain who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
Bryant in turn accused Inslee of ignoring Washington state-specific issues by focusing on Trump.
“We’re going to start talking about your four years of failure, and you’re going to have to start defending your record,” Bryant said.
4. I’m not rich
Inslee came out forcefully in support of raising the statewide minimum wage early in the debate, at one point focusing on how Seattle’s soon-to-be $15 minimum-wage doesn’t seem to be hurting the city’s restaurant industry.
“You can’t get a table in Seattle,” Inslee said. “And the fact is, the evidence is overwhelming, that when you do some reasonable raise in the minimum wage it can actually help economic growth and help those small businesses.”
Bryant rebutted, saying economic success isn’t uniform in the state and describing his parents’ struggle in smaller Washington cities.
“Well, I didn’t grow up going to restaurants in Seattle,” he said.
Bryant said he wouldn’t support a “one size fits all” statewide minimum wage, but instead would prefer to work with the Legislature to provide regional minimum wages.
5. Candidate Inslee vs. Gov. Inslee
Bryant took an opportunity to remind the audience that although Inslee made a 2012 campaign pledge to not propose new taxes to help fund education, as governor he did less than two years later.
In late 2014, the governor unsuccessfully proposed a tax on carbon emissions and a tax on capital gains to address the state Supreme Court’s McCleary order to fully fund public schools.
“As a candidate, Jay Inslee said that we did not need any new taxes to fully fund our McCleary obligations, and that we could fully fund our obligations through revenue growth,” Bryant said.
“And I think he was right.”