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McKenna touts endorsements on eve of debate

OLYMPIA -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna went to the playbook today to give his campaign a bit of ink the day before the first debate with Democrat Jay Inslee.

McKenna held a press conference at the Space Needle to introduce "Democrats for Rob", a group of folks from the other party who are supporting him.

Democrats were quick to cast it as a "political stunt" . . .

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This play may be nearly as old as the Statue of Liberty in football, and has been used by candidates of both parties over the years. Dino Rossi had the alliterative "Democrats for Dino" in his statewide campaigns, and Chris Gregoire had a Republicans for Gregoire link on her web page back in 2004. The challenge is to appeal to independents and centrists of the other party without seriously ticking off the stalwarts of your own.

Among the "D4R" group, as the McKenna people like to abbreviate it, are State Sen. Tim Sheldon, of Potlach, who is a Democrat when counting up the partisan divide in the Senate but often votes with Republicans on fiscal issues, and State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a conservative D who has worked with McKenna on instances where his office turns up irregularities and McKenna's office looks into prosecution. A couple of former Democratic legislators and some Puget Sound folks, most of whom give principally, although not always exclusively, to Democrats.

More newsworthy was an endorsement McKenna picked up over the weekend from the Public School Employees union. The executive board of the labor organization that represents about 26,000 school bus drivers, instructional aides, technicians and security guards went for McKenna after a panel interviewed the two candidates at least three times, spokesman Rick Chisa said.

While he couldn't remember the last time the group endorsed a Republican for governor, it does have a track record of supporting GOP legislators who support their issues, including Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, Chisa said. Among their top issues are affordable health care for schol workers and adequate funding for school support services.

McKenna and Inslee face off in their first debate of the campaign on Tuesday in Spokane. The debate is sponsored by the Association of Washington Business and the Greater Spokane, Inc., and will be held at the Bing Crosby Theater. If you don't have a ticket, however, it may be easier to watch it live on TVW.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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