SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — In the first Washington gubernatorial debate, Gov. Jay Inslee sharply criticized Republican opponent Bill Bryant for not speaking out against Donald Trump, his party's presidential nominee.
Inslee asked Bryant why he stayed silent for months when other Republicans upbraided Trump over a series of controversial statements, including recent remarks directed at the Muslim family of a fallen U.S. soldier.
Bryant noted that this week he said he would not vote for Trump. Pressed further by Inslee, Bryant said it was a difficult situation. He said Trump has appealed to voters who feel neglected by the mainstream political system.
Bryant said: "I was afraid that if I came out against Donald Trump" those voters "would think that I abandoned them, too."
Inslee and Bryant sparred over raising Washington's minimum wage, with Inslee saying increases should be spread across the state and Bryant countering that such hikes should vary by region.
Democrat Inslee said he was "fully supportive" of Initiative 1433, the November ballot measure that would raise Washington's minimum wage to $13.50 an hour by 2020. Inslee said the wage hike was necessary to help working families make ends meet and boost the economy.
Bryant, a Republican and former Port of Seattle commissioner, said he could not support a "one size fits all" initiative. He says the wage hikes are necessary but should be tailored by region because businesses in rural areas can't afford the level of increases in Seattle and other urban areas.
Bryant slammed Inslee for what he said was mismanagement of the state's prison and mental health systems and for failing to address public education funding. Inslee said the state had made "solid progress" during his first term and added jobs.
In one of the more humorous moments of the debate, Bryant asked Inslee what he considered his worst mistake, and Inslee replied that it was probably when he accepted the campaign donation check from Bryant when Inslee was making his first run for Congress.
"Everyone makes a mistake," Bryant responded, smiling.