Hopefully, both candidates—Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna—will be pushed beyond their comfortable talking points. I'd suggest a different format than we've seen to date: Sit the two men down at a table with a couple of beers, have a moderator start a conversation, and then let them argue like normal people do at the bar. The moderator can steer things and play ref, making sure the one with the louder voice doesn't hog the mike. But otherwise let them challenge each other and speak extemporaneously.
Short of that, I'm afraid we're going to get the same old thing: Jay Inslee mooning over Washington State's "secret sauce" of entrepreneurship and innovation while hyping Lean management and accusing Rob McKenna of being Paul Ryan; and Rob McKenna championing his plan to fund education while criticizing Inslee's government-centric plan of picking winners and losers and predicting that Inslee will raise taxes because he's a Democrat.
To help get both candidates past their scripts, here are some questions they should have to answer.
1) A recent state supreme court ruling held that gas taxes could be used for things besides roads. You have come out in favor of sending a transportation tax package to voters. Would you approve legislation that included the use of gas taxes for transit?
2) You say the recent US Supreme Court ruling supporting Obamacare actually vindicates your lawsuit against the act because the majority held that the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. That ruling certainly sets a precedent to chip away at federal power. Are there other examples where you think the Commerce Clause has been interpreted too broadly, such as the Raich ruling (where conservatives hyped the Commerce Clause) to regulate pot? The Violence Against Women Act to stop sex trafficking? Justifying farm subsidies? Gun control legislation?
3) I've harped on this before. You talk about reforming unemployment insurance and workers' comp. But Gov. Chris Gregoire passed bipartisan reforms to both UI and workers' comp that were praised by business. Specifically, what further reforms are you advocating that don't breach the bipartisanship of those deals?
4) A recent Republican Governors Association ad criticized Inslee for a proposal he once made to put some state retirement pension money toward start-up investments. The ad raised alarms about jeopardizing state worker pensions. But the Republicans in the state legislature are the ones who recently pushed scaling back state worker pensions. Did you support your party's pension cutbacks and would you support the additional cutbacks to state worker pensions that your party is calling for?
1) McKenna has attached numbers to his education funding plan, promising to increase education funding by $1.7 billion in the 2013-2015 biennium with a 6 percent cap on non-education spending. Can you attach specific numbers to your claim that the state can save money through preventive health care reforms and Lean manufacturing practices?
2) You say you are in favor of making teacher evaluations a significant factor in management decisions. Do you support making student achievement a significant piece of teacher evaluations? Are you willing to defy one of your top funders, the national teachers' union, on this litmus-test issue?
3) Your jobs plan promises to invest in the 21st century knowledge economy, but what specifically does your jobs plan do for traditional blue-collar workers?
And for both candidates, who have been scrapping over the levy swap proposal (which would increase the state's commitment to K-12 education funding by taking over local property taxes):
For McKenna: If it means property owners in King County will see their taxes increase to adequately fund K-12 education, would you support it?
For Inslee: You've come out against this plan, even though one of its main proponents is Democratic state house ways and means chair Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48). If the legislature passes this plan, will you veto it?