EDITORIAL: Why Rob McKenna lost the governor’s race

When the final votes were counted, Democrat Jay Inslee walked away as the governor of the state of Washington, winning 51.25% of the vote.

How did Rob McKenna, a popular Attorney General who garnered 53% of the vote in 2004 and nearly 60% of the vote in 2008 lose out? There are multiple reasons for his loss, most notably his actions on Obamacare, the people and groups he aligned himself with he keeps, degrading his support base and the evolution of Washington’s electorate.

When McKenna defended his decision to sign Washington state’s name onto the multi-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, he said that he only wanted to strike down the Individual Mandate, not the other protections that were provided by the law. Despite what he said, however, the lawsuit as it was written attacked the ACA at a much larger scale and may have taken down the entire law.

Signing onto something that seemed so extremely partisan may have cemented McKenna in Washington’s Republican base, but it helped degrade his coalitions from 2004 and 2008, which contained members whose lives would be much improved because of Obamacare.

In addition to his misstep on the ACA, McKenna further weakened his moderate standing with the company he kept. In particular, two Republican governors came to Washington to fundraise for the McKenna campaign: Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell.

For someone wanting to come off as a moderate, appearances with Bobby Jindal, who opposes abortions in all cases, including rape and incest, and Bob McDonnell, who also opposes all abortions and once sponsored a “vaginal probe” clause that would have required women to undergo a vaginal ultrasound examination before having an abortion, is dangerous in the very pro-women Washington state.

Early on, McKenna also aligned himself with the Tea Party, telling hundreds of Tea Partiers at a rally, “I represent you.”

Alliances like those may have helped his Republican base, but it greatly degraded his earlier coalition.

Finally, aided by the many high tech jobs in Washington state that attract young, highly-educated, and out-of-state professionals, the Washington electorate has been slowly drifting away from McKenna. Each year, more people from out of state moved to Washington. They had no knowledge of his prior work, they didn’t see his dominating victories. All they knew for sure was that he had an ‘R’ next to his name. There are other reasons, too, Debadutta Dash, co-chair of the Washington State–India Trade Relations Committee, said. Dash states that McKenna never really appealed to minority communities — his efforts to engage them seemed ingenuine. He also ran into what may have been his worst problem. He and Jay agreed on very many positions, making them seem very similar in the eyes of undecided voters.

What do undecided voters in Washington do when they can’t tell the difference between two candidates? Easy, they vote for the one with the ‘D’ next to their name.  (end)

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