We outlined the basic points from Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna's gubernatorial campaign kickoff breakfast speech in Bellevue yesterday. But Cola reporter Lummy Lin was at the event itself.

Here's her first hand report.

Riding the Election Day wave, gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna held a campaign kickoff breakfast yesterday morning at the downtown Bellevue Meydenbauer Center with a group of 1,500 supporters. McKenna, of course, is focused on Election Day 2012. Indeed, although the gubernatorial election is a year away, the two-term Republican Attorney General has been leading  in the polls over his Democrat opponent, US Rep Jay Inslee by six points, and is in full campaign mode. Yesterday, he rolled out his campaign vision of “a new direction for Washington.”

McKenna’s “new direction” slogan not only serves as the theme for his job creation plan, but also subtly references his quest to end the Democrats’ 26 year reign over the governor’s office (or as Sammamish councilman and emcee John Curley quipped, “we haven’t had a Republican win the governorship since Dino Rossi.”)

As Josh noted yesterday, McKenna’s speech  recycled his talking points from his June announcement speech (complete with the nifty Venn diagrams). As supporters dined on scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes, McKenna outlined his three-pronged “new direction” plan.  The plan champions the trademark conservative approach of small government through reducing taxes and regulations to stimulate private sector job growth. There's a twist, though. Just as he did in June,  McKenna is advocating Democratic President Barack Obama-style education reform that touts charter schools as a magic bullet (which McKenna likened to “that boulder in [the video game] Angry Birds that’s tipping, tipping, and….needs a governor to sign and enact [education reform] legislation to push over.”)[pullquote]McKenna likened charter schools to “that boulder in Angry Birds that’s tipping, tipping, and….needs a governor to sign and enact legislation to push over.”[/pullquote]

The takeaway from the 30-minute speech is that McKenna believes government should run more like a business.  He blamed the failings of Washington’s education and government system on the “government culture of seniority” instead of instilling a “culture of performance.”

Moreover, McKenna advocated a “competitive contracting process to determine which services the government should provide and which the private sector can do better.” Ultimately, the boon of less government spending, he said, would be more funding for K-12 and higher education. (McKenna likes to decry the fact that K-12 funding has dropped from 50 percent to 41 percent of the state budget and that higher ed funding has dropped from 16 percent to eight percent over the last several decades.)

Speakers at the breakfast hyped McKenna's unconventional status as a high-profile and well-respected Republican in a staunchly blue state. Both former Weyerhauser executive Mack Hogans and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (in a pre-recorded video) emphasized McKenna’s strong performance at the polls in an election year that ushered Obama into the White House.

Hogan contended that the “extreme partisan political machine” (Hogan-ese for the Democrats) has “come out swinging” at McKenna because they are threatened by his success and refuse to let go of the status quo. McKenna’s success has been widely connected to his reputation (and portrayal of himself) as a moderate, a message he has stuck to throughout his campaign.

He’s even been taking a page out of the Democrats’ playbook by aggressively campaigning for the Latino vote. McKenna has formed a group called "Latinos con McKenna." Raul Almeida, a former police chief from eastern Washington, was another featured speaker this morning and praised Mckenna’s experience combating gang violence in Hispanic communities. Almeida said “[he] drove all the way from Tri-cities…[because McKenna] cares about communities like [his].”

Footnote: McKenna's office pushed an anti-gang violence bill in Olympia last session, but it failed when civil liberties and Latino groups criticized it for treading on due process and legal rights—and for racial profiling.

The breakfast concluded at around 9 AM, with the entire McKenna family on stage posing for the press.

Show Comments