State Sen. John Moyer started his second straight election comeback effort Friday at a debate in downtown Spokane.
Challenger Lisa Brown easily outdistanced the Spokane Republican in the primary earlier this month as she grabbed almost 60 percent of the vote.
But after gently wrangling with Brown in a morning debate, Moyer sounded confident he can turn the race around in the heavily Democratic 3rd District. “It can be done,” he said.
He’s done it before. In 1992, he trailed Bill Day by an even wider margin before sailing past the incumbent senator in November.
Moyer clearly hopes to brand Brown, a veteran state representative, as a tax-raising big spender.
His lone debate question for Brown was why she voted for what he called the biggest tax increase in state history in 1993.
Brown said Moyer mischaracterized the vote and said she backed the tax increase out of the need to balance the budget.
That confrontation was one of the few direct exchanges at The Met forum sponsored by the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.
The event also was attended by the four candidates for the two 3rd District House seats and about 35 spectators.
An audience question triggered the clearest clash of the morning.
House candidates Alex Wood and Brendon Hill were asked if they would support the legalization of drugs.
Wood said he supported legalizing drugs on an experimental basis to see if it eased some of the social ills caused by the illicit market.
“What is driving the drug problem is money,” Wood said. “I would be willing to try a five-year legalization program to see if that can dry up the money. … I know it’s a radical stance.”
Wood’s Republican foe jumped on his answer.
“That is just flat out wrong,” Hill said. “I’m sorry, but we’ve got to have standards” for our children. “Legalizing drugs is not appropriate.”
After the debate, Wood said he wanted to clarify his position. While he philosophically supports legalization, he wouldn’t vote for it as a state legislator unless it had the backing of his constituents.
In the district’s other House race, Republican Ken Whitehall railed against “bloated” state bureaucracies and suggested across-the-board cuts in property taxes.
His opponent, Democrat Jeff Gombosky, stressed that the 3rd District, which covers downtown Spokane and its central neighborhoods, too often is seen for its poverty instead of for its vibrant potential.
The welfare issue could be pivotal in the Moyer-Brown race. Moyer likes the federal reforms that forces recipients to find jobs and restricts how long they can stay on welfare.
“I think it’s a great challenge. I think it will help a lot.” Moyer said welfare, ideally, should turn into a jobs program.
Brown said the impacts of the federal reforms won’t be felt for a while, but she didn’t sound optimistic about the results. “I’m very distressed with the federal bill,” she said.
Moyer, 74, said he isn’t ready to quit politics. “I’ve got 10 years in. I’ve learned the ins and outs, and I’m finally at the the point I can be very effective.”
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