By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Columnist
There are numerous reasons why Bellevue’s Rob McKenna or Bainbridge Island’s Jay Inslee could emerge from their neck-and-neck race for governor as the victor.
Here are my top five for each of them.
Republican Rob McKenna
5. He’ll raise taxes.
It sounds counterintuitive to suggest this is a good thing for McKenna. It really could be a plus. McKenna backs raising the gas tax to help pay for transportation projects. He also wants to increase the amount of property taxes collected from thousands of residents as a step toward recalibrating the flow of dollars to public schools. Neither idea is earth-shattering. Both are going to be palatable to some of the middle-of-the-political-road independents whose votes he seeks. And there are a few moderate Democrats who’d welcome a Republican talking up taxes as part of a solution to fixing roads and funding schools.
4. He backs charter schools.
For voters primed to end the state’s prohibition on charter schools, improving public schools is going to be one of their most important concerns. Maybe the most important. Knowing McKenna is on their side could be enough for them to overlook concerns with him on other matters.
3. He’ll get a bump from Romney’s rise.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won’t win in Washington. But as support for him grows elsewhere in the country, it may pay small dividends for McKenna. As Dino Rossi can attest, there are Republican voters who will sit out an election if the person atop their party’s presidential ticket is a turn-off and will get engaged when they feel they can cast a ballot for the next president — even if that person gets there without Washington’s help.
2. His rival is Jay Inslee.
Unlike McKenna, the Republicans’ unquestioned torchbearer in this race since 2009, Inslee spent the first few months of his candidacy convincing other Democrats and party leaders he had the means and moxie to win. Now he’s got to do the same with undecided voters who hold the fate of the race in their hands. Of late, Inslee appears light on money and soft in response to McKenna’s final push on the airwaves, which is opening the door to doubt.
1. He’s a wonk.
Let’s face it, Washington voters embrace bureaucrats with a law degree for chief executive. Boring may not define them but it’s an attribute with which they are blessed. Where candidate Chris Gregoire had her white papers, McKenna has his spreadsheets and plans. If nothing else, seeing him “dance” Gangnam Style could seal the deal Nov. 6.
Democrat Jay Inslee
5. He’s a Democrat.
In the heavily populated province of Seattle in the Republic of King County, that’s what matters to most voters. That’s because nowhere in the state is the number and concentration of Democratic voters greater than in the city and county. Inslee will win King County but he’s got to surpass 60 percent in doing so before he can contemplate victory. Knowing this, Democratic operatives are cranking up their get-out-the-vote efforts like never before. If there’s one thing Democrats do well is turn out their voters.
4. He endorses marriage for gay couples.
Inslee’s support of the gay marriage law is as clear as McKenna’s opposition to it. And it’s a position that plays better in vote-rich King County. So if there is a truly torn voter left there — and they can’t decipher the two candidates’ views on jobs, health care or even education — this might be the tie-breaker.
3. He’s preferred by women voters.
Polls reveal a gap between the genders in this race: men back McKenna and women back Inslee. It’s pretty much a wash in the surveys. However, more women are likely to cast ballots than men in this election, giving Inslee a potential edge. How big a deal is it? Enough so that McKenna produced a couple TV ads stressing his support of issues important to women, including one in which he mentions his wife and two daughters but not his sons.
2. His rival is Rob McKenna.
Inslee isn’t a very flashy guy this campaign. His proselytizing about Lean Management as a solution to Washington’s ills is getting less traction than ice. On the other hand, he’s running against a guy, McKenna, who isn’t afraid of raising taxes, refuses to release his personal taxes and is nonchalant about letting others — including taxpayers — pay for him to travel to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Disneyland. That’s pretty good fodder should Inslee want to raise the point.
1. He’s a Democrat II.
The last time voters elected a Republican governor was 1980. For Democrats, it’s an impressive winning streak of seven elections through good times and bad. History is on his side and of his party, making it the best reason he may be able to seal the deal Nov. 6.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.