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Originally published Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Op-ed: Stop preying on women’s fears in governor’s race between Rob McKenna, Jay Inslee

Guest columnists

Special to The Times

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THE latest ads in the race for Washington state governor feature women who say Rob McKenna tried to restrict contraception and block access to birth control and cancer screening for women. The ads are false, and worse, the ads prey on the worst fears of women to gain political advantage.

Washington state’s problems are serious. We deserve a real discussion of the issues, not a web of falsehoods that have nothing to do with the candidates or how they will address key issues.

Enough.

McKenna has never tried to block access to birth control or cancer screenings and he never will.

When it comes to women’s issues, McKenna’s record is solid. He is a Republican who led a national effort against human trafficking, and fought Backpage.com from profiting off child exploitation. He increased penalties for sex crimes and created the nation’s first law allowing facilities to ban sex offenders from places where children gather. McKenna became a driving force for tougher punishments for repeat domestic-violence offenders. He is for a woman’s right to choose.

Second, we want women to know why three politically diverse women would come out in favor of McKenna.

Washington state is hurting. Our unemployment rate is still too high. Our education system is failing our children. We are 46th in the nation in per-student funding. Nearly one-third of our children drop out before earning a high-school diploma. Education budgets have been trimmed and reasonable reforms rejected.

While every election is important, this one is epic. Without a change in Olympia, our state is headed for a financial and economic catastrophe like California.

On jobs, Jay Inslee, the Democrat and former congressman in the race, favors targeted assistance for specific industries, such as green businesses. While this sounds good, his plan is based on government favoritism for potentially risky ventures and the creation of a new government agency to help manage the economy.

We favor McKenna’s plan to reduce burdens on all businesses, not hand-selected favorites. This is a more surefire way to grow the economy than Inslee’s Solyndra-style plan.

We need a governor who will make education his top priority. Inslee’s biggest political supporters are the organizations that fight meaningful education reform, guaranteeing the status quo under an Inslee administration. While Inslee calls for more education funding, he won’t say where he will find the money.

McKenna is the more knowledgeable candidate on education, calling for more funding and explaining exactly how he’s going to achieve it. He embraces education reform and promotes ideas that have worked in other states.

On health care, we have diverse opinions on the Affordable Care Act, but we agree that McKenna is more versed in the challenges and opportunities.

Inslee is willing to accept the top-down approach from Washington, D.C., as well as a broad Medicaid expansion, without question. McKenna balances a strong fiscal policy with the need to address the health concerns of the most vulnerable among us.

We are not advocates for the Republican Party; some of us vote more Democratic than Republican. It speaks volumes that many Democrats are willing to cross party lines to endorse McKenna.

Many of our friends are concerned about the national Republican platform with regard to women’s reproductive rights and gay marriage. While we share many of the same concerns, we won’t judge McKenna by a national platform that has little or nothing to do with governing our state. He has made it clear that he respects and supports Washington voters’ preferences on both of these issues.

We can elect Inslee and keep our state on the same course. Or, we can elect McKenna, and set our state on a new path, in a new direction, that offers a brighter future for our state and our families.

Judith Runstad is a Seattle attorney and Independent voter. Judy Yu is an advocate for the Asian-American community, a former trustee for Central Washington University and an Independent voter. Alayne Sulkin is publisher of ParentMap and a Democrat.


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