Inslee, Culp spar over COVID-19 in only governor’s debate

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Loren Culp met in their first and only debate Wednesday night, disagreeing immediately over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of COVID-19, the candidates participated in the televised debate from separate rooms at the Olympia headquarters of TVW, the state’s government affairs channel.

Inslee said his virus mandates that initially shut or restricted many businesses and required masks and social distancing have saved lives.

Culp, a small-town police chief in eastern Washington, has campaigned against Inslee’s coronavirus restrictions like mandatory masks, saying they infringe on people’s constitutional rights. Inslee says his measures have saved lives at a time when President Trump, who recently contracted the virus, has been downplaying its seriousness.

Culp, who said he had wanted to debate in the same room as Inslee, said that if he were governor he would have put out the information and let people decide what’s best for them regarding the virus.

Culp criticized Inslee’s comments calling the recent wildfires in the state “climate fires.” He said that while he doesn’t deny that the climate is changing, “the recent fires are the result of very poor management on the state level.”

On the state economy, which has seen revenues plummet during the pandemic, Culp said he would start with noew programs or pay raises for state workers and look at individual programs for cuts.

Inslee noted that earlier this year he vetoed hundreds of millions in spending, and said that they would need to look at some cuts, but defended his decision to not call a special session to address the budget before January, saying he didn’t want rush to make cuts before knowing the full fiscal picture. (AP)

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