The King County Democrats are holding a debate tonight between the four Democrats vying for King County Executive—King County Council Member Dow Constantine, State Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), State Sen. Fred Jarrett (D-41, Mercer Island), and King County Council Member Larry Phillips.
There's also a Republican in the Exec's race, former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison. She hasn't been invited to participate in tonight's Democratic Party debate. (She was, however, invited to take part in the Alki Foundation debates later this week on Thursday—the Alki Foundation is the region's business lobby. Hutchison declined.)
Tonight's debate—in Renton at the Renton Carpenters Hall—is the first meeting of all four Democratic contenders. PubliCola can't wait. The meet and greet starts at 6:30 and the debate starts at 7:30.
For starters, it's being moderated by young Democratic activist and blogger Andrew Villeneuve. I don't know how the idiosyncratic Villeneuve scored the high profile honors. He's the Executive Director of the N.W. Progressive Institute, a partisan non-profit organization that I don't exactly get. (Villeneuve, 22, has been running NWPI since he was a teenager.) His obsessive focus will definitely make tonight's opening showdown an on-point forum.
In addition to general questions about the big issues currently facing King County: the $5o million general fund shortfall; the $100 million transit budget hole (maybe $50 million now thanks to the legislature); the 40/40/20 Metro bus allocation split that cripples Seattle; whether or not the County should stand by outgoing Exec Ron Sims' demand that regional cities build their own jail; how to continue funding social services; the standoff with Snohomish County neighbors over the Brightwater sewage plant—here's one specific question for each candidate that I hope gets asked.
Dow Constantine. You make a big deal out of your righteous 10-year fight against Maury Island strip mining company, Glacier Northwest. Name one piece of legislation you've sponsored and/or passed that has had any impact on the company.
Ross Hunter. A priority for Democrats this past legislative session was raising the rates and broadening the eligibility for unemployment insurance. You voted 'No' when House Democrats passed the bill 53-45. You also stood by your 'No' vote on the reform bill after the Senate gutted it and the House tried, but failed, the strengthen it. Why did you oppose the unemployment insurance reforms?
(I'd also like to ask Hunter why he didn't vote—he was "Excused"— on the payday lending reform bill and later, how he voted in caucus when the House Democrats decided to reject the Senate's watered down version. Jarrett, by the way, voted in the Senate to water it down.)
Fred Jarrett. Another major Democratic priority in Olympia this session was reforming "Retro"—the workers' comp fund that has been used (unethically it would seem) to run attack ads against Democrats. The Senate passed a retro reform bill 25-24. You voted against it. Why?
Larry Phillips. You spent months attacking Ron Sims for not anticipating the county's current budget woes. Yet you have been either budget chair or Council chair for the last few years, and you voted for the budgets you now attack. Can you point to any significant examples where you publicly opposed the budgets you now criticize?