OLYMPIA — The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn.
Policing and law enforcement accountability, and this year’s related protests.
Expect to hear about these and other issues in Wednesday night’s debate between Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and GOP challenger Loren Culp.
The hourlong debate will broadcast live beginning at 8 p.m., 30 minutes after the vice presidential debate and will stream here.
Culp, the police chief of Republic, Ferry County, has built much of his campaign around resistance to Inslee’s six months of emergency orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The GOP challenger has said he would end the mandatory statewide mask orders implemented by the governor, as well as shutdowns of businesses.
Inslee, a former congressman seeking a rare third term as governor, is campaigning on his response to the virus. After Washington experienced the first COVID-19 outbreak in the nation, Inslee put in place one of the strictest stay-home orders in the nation, restrictions which he has gradually eased over the past several months.
Expect also to hear about the candidates’ ideas to tackle the economic fallout from the virus and its restrictions when lawmakers return in January to Olympia for their scheduled legislation session.
The next governor must reckon with a $4.2 billion projected state budget shortfall through 2023. That’s half the size of a more dire estimate made this spring. But it will still force difficult decisions on taxes and spending for a budget that funds schools, parks, prisons, foster care, mental health and other services.
(But beware — candidates rarely like to cite specific taxes they’d raise or spending they’d cut ahead of an election. We’ll see if Wednesday’s debate is different.)
When it comes to changes surrounding policing and law-enforcement accountability, the two candidates have generally fallen along partisan lines.
Inslee has said he intends to support a range of measures being considered by task forces, which include the creation of independent investigations of law enforcement and a public database for police use-of-force incidents, as well as changes to officer training and tactics.
Culp has meanwhile said he doesn’t believe systemic racism is a problem in policing, and that good officers have been tarnished unfairly.