Hutchison's Close-Up

By Erica C. Barnett August 25, 2009

[caption id="attachment_12740" align="alignright" width="289" caption="Hutchison on Election Night"]Hutchison on Election Night [/caption]

In a surprisingly softball interview with KUOW's Guy Nelson, King County Executive candidate Susan Hutchison—a conservative and frequent Republican donor—challenged her opponent Dow Constantine's record on the King County Council, which he chairs. Calling county government "arrogant, disdainful, and disrespectful," Hutchison said the voters shouldn't elect someone who has been "part of the problem."

"My opponent is the chair of the King County Council, and as such he has huge responsibility... for the mess the county is in," Hutchison said. "It just is a great reminder of the mess that we're in we're getting to a apoint where we have to close 39 of our parks because of the structural deficit and the mismanagement at the county—and let me remind you, I did not create this situation."

Hutchison mostly stuck to her stump-speech sound bites (and Nelson didn't challenge her): "Nonpartisan nonpolitician," "we need to be on a meatloaf, not a steak, diet," "bring all the stakeholders to the table," "convene the mayors of the various cities to come together." (With 39 cities in King County, that's going to have to be a pretty big table).

Hutchison did get specific on a few points. She said she'd she'd ditch Metro's hated "40/40/20" service allocation plan (which gives most new bus service to the suburbs) for a "demand based" scheme; suggested that corporate sponsorship (essentially, selling naming rights to corporations) could be a way to keep parks open; proposed a county-wide hiring freeze; and vowed to require county employees to pay a larger share of their health care premiums.

"The county pays about $1,100 a month for their medical package. The average of all [companies] in this region is about $700 a month," Hutchison said. "It costs the county millions and millions of dollars to provide this luxurious package. ... We are cutting health services for the poor in order to provide a Cadillac benefits package for our county employees [and] that just doesn't seem fair."

Constantine also supports increasing the amount some county employees contribute toward their health care, although his proposal would cut costs by targeting high-paid, non-union managerial employees first, then by providing incentives for workers to choose the less expensive Group Health plan, and finally by finding more savings during contract negotiations with the unions. He says national health-care reform would "definitely help us in terms of driving down the cost" of health care by providing competitive national health-care option.

Hutchison did not say whether she supports any form of health-care reform as part of the larger solution to burgeoning health-care costs; I've emailed her campaign manager Jordan McCarren to find out if she does and, if so, in what form.

At the close of her 20-minute interview, Hutchison challenged Constantine to three debates—a seeming throw-down that the P-I reported as such. However, Constantine says the two candidates have already agreed, separately, to hold multiple televised debates, and have been talking to two TV stations about where and when. "Of course we're enthusiastic about the opportunity to debate," Constantine says.

"Oh, please," Constantine said. "Is she going to challenge me to a primary election next?"
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