SEATTLE — Aside from getting Washington State’s wavering economy back on track, the next governor is set to inherit a number of pressing issues such as the legalization of marijuana, charter schools, reforming education, tuition increases, health care, funding for safety net programs, and marriage equality.
As gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna (R) and Jay Inslee (D) continue to debate these issues, polls are still indicating a competitive race in November.
The SurveyUSA Election Poll released on October 3 show Inslee pulling ahead 6 points, with Inslee at 48 percent and McKenna at 42 percent. Of those polled who identified as “Asian/Other,” 51 percent supported Inslee, 38 percent supported McKenna, and 11 percent were undecided.
Numbering over 420,000, Asian Pacific Islanders make up 7.5 percent of Washington’s total population.
The Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs has highlighted a need for APA access to quality, affordable, safe, and culturally inclusive education, health and social services, and workforce development.
For some Washington APA voters, however, determining who gets their vote in November, or who doesn’t, can be narrowed down to a single factor.
Cecilio Alconcel, a retired real estate appraiser who lives in Olympia, said he is determined to vote against McKenna for his role as attorney general in trying to overturn President Barack Obama’s federal health care legislation.
“I’m a senior and I don’t think that was right,” Alconcel said. “[McKenna] will just go along with what Republicans need him to do. You know how it is, you gotta have party loyalty.”
Alconcel said it was unacceptable for seniors in Washington State to have their access to health care threatened.
At an October debate in Yakima, McKenna expressed his opposition to a federal plan to expand Medicaid in the state to cover more people without health insurance because the federal government would only pay for the plan for the first three years.
Inslee said those costs are made up for the fact that Washington residents already pay for uninsured hospital patients.
Fred De Lara, who works in contracts for the Boeing Company in Seattle, said he is voting for McKenna because he is not a fan of big government.
“I don’t like government telling me what to do,” De Lara said. “Under Inslee, we’ll see a lot more regulation.”
De Lara said most of the decision makers at the state level are Democrats, and that having a Republican governor would bring balance to that decision making.
A focus of McKenna’s campaign has been on reforming unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and business regulation.
Inslee’s campaign has outlined a 75-point economic plan that includes tax breaks for IT and biotech and the creation of a state office for economic competitiveness.
Nate, a former medical marijuana dispensary owner who asked that his last name not be published, said he will not be voting in November’s election because he doesn’t think state lawmakers will address the needs of people in his industry.
Nate said he had supported current Gov. Christine Gregoire in her campaigns but felt that she “stabbed the medical marijuana industry in the back.”
Nate also said he isn’t concerned with Washington Initiative 502, which would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in the state, because it does not have the support of the medical marijuana industry.
Neither McKenna or Inslee are supporting the initiative.
Stacy Sisson, who works in sales for an organic meat company, said she is voting for Inslee because she thinks he upholds women’s rights better than Rob McKenna.
“Being a woman, that’s really important to my deciding factor in voting,” Sisson said. “We tend to be a pretty liberal state in general, but whatever little bit we can do as a state in Washington is important for the whole country.”
Inslee’s campaign has promised to fight against any effort to restrict a woman’s access to emergency contraception and has stated that he will introduce state legislation requiring that insurance plans that cover maternity care also provide abortion coverage.
McKenna has not gone so far, only saying that he supports the state laws “which provide a woman with control over reproductive decisions.”
Sisson also said she feels Inslee will bring more jobs to Washington through its ports.
An offensive tweet this summer by a McKenna staffer who has since resigned that read: “Shut up and speak English#Asians” hasn’t been enough to keep Washington voters from making the gubernatorial race close. With less than a month to go in the stretch, APA voters are still keeping their eyes on the issues that matter most to them.