Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna made a half-dozen stops along Interstate 5 on Saturday, telling volunteers at campaign phone banks it is “crunch time” now that ballots are arriving in homes for the Nov. 6 election. Rival Democrat Jay Inslee and his allies in labor and the environmental movement have been doing the same thing, including major door-to-door efforts a week ago that I wrote about here.
“You need to identify about 10 of your friends who are undecided or maybe are not voting. You need to bring them over,” McKenna told another group of more than 30 volunteers at a Federal Way office park where one of his 16 phone-bank efforts statewide was taking place.
Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest and two state House candidates, state Rep. Katrina Asay of Milton and Linda Kochmar of Federal Way, were there along with volunteer Mark Koppang, an accounts manager for a packaging firm in Auburn.
Koppang said he had not done phone banking before, and he thinks McKenna has a shot at winning in a state that has favored the Democrat for governor every election since 1984. ”I think he’s the guy who can work with everyone in Washington to come up with solutions,’’ he said.
My travels with McKenna and his spokesman Charles McCray covered several stops - just as I’d tagged along with Inslee and an aide one week ago to gather information for a future story. Inslee had met a large crowd of labor volunteers in Tacoma and a smaller one of about 60 with Washington Conservation Voters in Issaquah – on day that each group had door-to-door efforts going on in five different cities.
McKenna made stops in more than a half-dozen communities from Everett to Lakewood, and he called volunteers at other locations around the state that he didn’t visit first-hand.
At a home on Democratic Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill, a Democrats-for-McKenna phone bank was under way at the home of independent voter Judy Yu and Republican Clay Hall. Yu likes McKenna’s grasp of education issues and the needs of small business people like her that find regulations are cumbersome.
Yu also joked that she and her husband are often on opposite sides voting but that McKenna brought them together this time.
Pam Eshelman, another self-described independent voter from Seattle, said she was inspired by McKenna’s depth of knowledge in education issues and his plans for funding it. He gets that we need change.’’
It was at the Yu-Hall home that I ran into McKenna’s mother-in-law, Susan Sieveke, a retired teacher and self described “Democrat for Rob.’’ Sieveke lives in Bellevue and said she had an Obama-Biden bumper-sticker on her apartment door, under which she put another for McKenna.
I asked about Inslee and was caught a little by surprise when Sieveke said: “I’m OK with Jay Inslee if he wins. You have to be.’’
Inslee topped McKenna by 4 percentage points in the Aug. 7 primary, and McKenna trailed badly behind the Democrat in King County. But the Washington Poll released this week showed Inslee is leading the governor’s race statewide by less than a percentage point among likely voters.
And McKenna is not giving up on voters in Seattle where he has a campaign office in the International District.
About noon, McKenna stopped in at the nonpartisan Communities of Color Legislative Day and candidates forum at Rainier Beach High School on Seattle’s south end, which highlighted concerns of racial minorities. It was there that Inslee and McKenna actually crossed paths but did not get onto the stage at the same time.
Both candidates did answer questions from KIRO-7 television reporter Essex Porter, who pushed for specifics on how the candidates could pay for K-12 schools.
But each gave comments similar to what he has delivered in debates – with McKenna saying he’ll devote a higher share of the state’s growing revenues to schools and Inslee talking about how he’d find extra money for schools by growing the economy and winning efficiencies in healthcare and state-agency operations.
McKenna also told the crowd of more than 100 people that when he was a King County Council member he had responded to community requests for a majority-minority council district in the south Seattle neighborhoods including Rainier Beach. A majority-minority district is one where racial and ethnic minorities make up up a majority of voters.
I noticed a few other statewide candidates at the forum including Bob Ferguson, Democratic candidate for attorney general, and Bill Finkbeiner, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor – as well as legislator candidates like Rep.Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle.
Advocates on both sides of Initiative 1240, which would authorize 40 charter schools, also were there and McKenna wore a Yes on 1240 button the rest of the day.
Later in the day, McKenna stopped in at a downtown Tacoma phone bank where former House lawmaker Gigi Talcott and more than a dozen others were making calls. Talcott said the call lists were turning up voters who were already going to vote for McKenna so she was asking a few of them to find other voters they can turn out.