"This is just a ridiculous distraction. Why is this important?" McKenna said in a morning conference call with reporters.
Though McKenna didn't completely reject releasing his returns, his top adviser wiped away any uncertainty when he joined the call.
"The issue is done," said Randy Pepple, McKenna's campaign manager.
When Pepple was asked if that means McKenna would not be providing returns at all, he replied, "Correct."
Last week, Democratic candidate Jay Inslee, a former congressman, released five years of federal income tax returns and called on McKenna to do the same. Several news organizations requested the documents.
McKenna has refused, saying the financial disclosure forms he files with the state Public Disclosure Commission "provide more information" on his income, debts and investments than the tax reports.
He called it "a phony issue" and he said he wanted to focus on how he and Inslee differ in their approaches to education and economic policy.
Those differences should become clearer Wednesday when the two men face off for a second debate.
The 8 p.m. debate at the Washington State University campus in Vancouver will be televised live on KATU-TV of Portland, Ore. The station is planning to stream it live at www.katu.com.
On other issues, McKenna said if voters pass an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults it will create a serious conflict between state and federal laws.
When asked what actions he would take as governor if that occurred, he said he didn't believe it would come to that.
"I don't think the measure is going to pass. I think it will be defeated," he said.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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