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First Debate May Leave First Impression With Voters

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The campaigns for Washington governor are heading into the dog days of summer now that the candidates survived their first, formal debate. That means a return to fundraising and retail level campaigning.

Polls show Washington’s race for governor is close. According to Real Clear Politics, Republican Rob McKenna averages just a three-and-a-half point advantage over Democrat Jay Inslee.

This week’s debate in Spokane between the two candidates could help Inslee with statewide name recognition. The former Congressman is up against a well known two-term Attorney General.

Democrat Jay Inslee (L) and Republican Rob McKenna squared off in the first debate in the Washington governor's race.
Democrat Jay Inslee (L) and Republican Rob McKenna squared off in the first debate in the Washington governor's race.

David Nice teaches politics at Washington State University. He says an early debate can also plant a seed with voters.

“This may be the start of people developing an impression that one of them seems like a good choice or one of them doesn’t," Nice says. "And that will be vague but it will be affected a lot by what comes after.”

Neither candidate faces a strong primary challenge in August. So Nice expects McKenna and Inslee will now return to behind-the-scenes fundraising, plus trips around the state to shore-up their respective political bases.

The next round of headlines in this race may come when the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act -– a law McKenna is challenging as Attorney General.

On the Web:

Washington Primary Voters Guide:

Wash. gubernatorial debate:

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.