Oct. 16 Daily News editorial

The Daily News' Editorial Board has chosen to endorse Rob McKenna, the state's current attorney general, in the Washington gubernatorial election.

We feel McKenna's management record in the Attorney General's office, his strong grasp of the state budget and his ability to work with persons from all parts of the state holding diverse political points of view make him a superior alternative to former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democratic candidate.

Washingtonians last elected a Republican governor in 1980, but have seldom been given a GOP alternative as qualified as McKenna. While we don't regard Inslee as unqualified for the governorship, we also think the environment in Olympia might be in need of "climate change," as a succession of Democratic governors have teamed with long-term Democratic majorities in both legislative houses to bring about a de facto form of one-party government that hasn't always served the state well.

McKenna bills himself as a "Northwest Republican" and often stakes out independent territory rather than adopting all the positions held by the national GOP. While he holds many conservative views, we feel his record marks him more as an administrator seeking responsible solutions to the state's revenue and budgetary issues rather than as an inflexible ideologue.

We see the larger issues facing the state much as they were four years ago. Washington's economy is still struggling. Locally, unemployment in Cowlitz County is still over 11 percent. The state budget continues to face revenue shortfalls, estimated at $1 billion for the next biennium. The pressure on budget issues has only increased in the wake of a decision by Washington State supreme court that K-12 education must be "fully funded" and that the present method for funding it must be changed. 

In terms of what we've seen and heard from the candidates, we prefer McKenna's education plan — even though it makes assumptions of revenue growth that could require adjustments — to anything proposed to this date by Inslee.

If McKenna is a somewhat atypical Republican, we feel Inslee's done too little to counter perceptions that he's a fairly typical Seattle-area Democrat, attuned more to the needs and preferences of the Puget Sound region than to the state as a whole.

This includes an environmentalist agenda that recently generated headlines when Associated Press reporters developed a story focusing on investments Inslee made in several "green energy" companies and votes he'd taken in Congress that were likely to enhance the value of those companies. Asked about potential conflicts of interest, Inslee's reponse was to say "The only perfect way to avoid any conflict ever is to be penniless."

We found that less than reassuring.

We commend both candidates for running reasonably ethical campaigns, for holding frequent debates and for making an effort to visit all parts of the state. While we enjoyed our opportunity to meet and talk with Inslee, we note that McKenna has been a regular and engaged visitor to Cowlitz County since he was first elected AG. Of the two contenders, he struck us as most familiar with our regional needs and concerns.

McKenna's also been endorsed by the Seattle Times, the Tacoma News Tribune, the Olympian and the Vancouver Columbian. For western as well as eastern Washington, we feel he's the best choice.

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