By SUSANNA RAY
LYNNWOOD — Dan McDonald had a debate with a long-winded speakerphone here Thursday night.
It was a forum for the 1st Congressional District candidates, but incumbent U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee had to fly back to Washington, D.C. to vote, so he participated via telephone.
Since Inslee didn’t have a timer, he tended to talk significantly beyond the two-minute allotments.
"I just asked my friend here to hit me in the head when I go overtime," Inslee joked when asked if he had a watch by moderator Warren Buck, the chancellor of the University of Washington-Bothell.
The head-hitting didn’t seem to work, though, which led members of the audience to good-naturedly shout out "No!" when Inslee asked about halfway through the debate, "May I add something to that briefly?"
"I’m sorry about my husband interrupting there," his wife, Trudi Inslee, who attended the debate, told Buck afterward.
It was a feisty debate despite the physical presence of only one candidate.
McDonald, a Bellevue Republican who has served in the Legislature for 22 years, took the independent road or the evasive road, depending on one’s perspective.
Inslee pushed McDonald to support one party’s plan over another on various issues, but McDonald refused, saying he has learned as a legislative leader not to get himself into a box by holding hard and fast to partisan proposals.
"I think it’s important that we have an adult discussion," McDonald said, "rather than saying the Republicans are saying this, and the Democrats are saying that, and never the twain shall meet."
Twice Inslee broke the debate rules to directly ask McDonald whether he supported Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security, which Inslee opposes.
McDonald was told he didn’t have to answer, but he did, saying that he didn’t always agree with Bush, but he would consider his plan.
Inslee, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island, repeatedly criticized his "friends on the other side of the aisle" in Washington, D.C., for their stands on various issues during his term in Congress.
"Sometimes I feel like I’ve already been elected and am back there, because I’m being tarred and feathered for things that have happened that I may or may not agree with," McDonald said.
The candidates answered questions from a panel and from the audience. The debate was sponsored by AARP, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County and the Snohomish County Council on Aging.
Inslee said he believed the federal government should not be considered the enemy, but should help out locally with such problems as classroom crowding and the cost of housing.
McDonald said he wanted more local control for education, and he wanted to help seniors with affordable housing by lowering their taxes and changing the law to allow them to rent out portions of their homes.
McDonald said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., plans to campaign for him here next week, at which time they’ll discuss campaign finance issues.
"You don’t have to wait," responded Inslee. "You have a congressman who has already co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold bipartisan (campaign finance reform) bill."
But the candidates didn’t disagree on everything.
Both Inslee and McDonald advocated a national patients bill of rights similar to the one the Legislature passed this year for Washington, and Medicare prescription drug benefits for all seniors, not only those with lower incomes.
"That’s kind of a basic part of any insurance system," McDonald said afterward.
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