Debate for Governor: McKenna & Inslee go head to head

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee went head to head Tuesday night at the Yakima Convention Center, trying to court voters in one of the most heated races for the governor's seat in Washington in decades.

They went back and forth on issues like taxes, healthcare and the economy. Action News wanted to find out what issues were most important to voters in Central Washington.

"Returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher rate of unemployment than the general population," said Yakima veteran Samuel Gatlin. "We need to address that issue."

Both candidates agree that Washington needs more jobs, but their proposed solutions are very different.

"Business of the state, small companies especially that will bring us back from high unemployment. we need to make it easier for them, more affordable for them to grow their companies and hire people," said Republican candidate Rob McKenna.

"We need and have a 75-point plan on how we can help small businesses, medium businesses and large businesses to capture opportunity inherent in an innovative and technologically savvy industrial growth," said Democratic candidate Jay Inslee.

Healthcare also took center stage. Many voters waited to hear the candidates' positions on federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as the new federalized healthcare law.

"I'm concerned about healthcare for myself and other elderly people," said Walter Braten.

"Health care reform, in particular, long-term care," said Laurie Brown.

"Medicaid is a basic safety net, but it's not insurance, it's welfare," McKenna said. "The better plan is to get as many people as possible to stay under private coverage as nearly 80 percent of people today, who are eligible for Medicaid are not on it, have," said McKenna.

"With 100 percent of federal dollars, when we extend that coverage to folks, that's not just a fiscal good decision, it's a humane one," Inslee said.

The two candidates also touched on legalizing marijuana and education funding, which once again highlighted their differences and the big decision facing voters next month.

The debate was held in Yakima. Both candidates also spoke about ways to crack down on gang violence that is a problem here. Inslee wants to give law enforcement the resources it needs to adequately go after gangs and run the prisons while McKenna would convince the legislature that it's a real problem and aggressively go after gang leaders. However, both agree that it's important to have programs in place to keep kids out of gangs and in school.