With the state of the economy on everyone's minds this year, social issues have largely been on the back burner in Senate and gubernatorial races across the country. But in both Washington state's Senate and governor's contests, social issues -- specifically, marriage-related issues -- have cropped up recently.
In December, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell's challenger, Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, caused controversy with a press release responding to Cantwell's support for non-prescription access to emergency contraception for girls under the age of 17. The release contained the line, "Baumgartner noted that Cantwell, who is unmarried, has frequently voted to undermine the role of parents in child-rearing."
The press release caused some controversy, and Baumgartner later told Hotline On Call it was "apparently poorly written."
And now, gay marriage is becoming an issue in the state's more competitive gubernatorial race. A bill to legalize gay marriage gained majority support in Washington's legislature, and GOP Attorney General Rob McKenna
confirmed he would vote to repeal the law if it were on the ballot -- while Rep. Jay Inslee
, D-Wash., supports gay marriage legalization.
From the Everett Herald
"I will vote to maintain the current law and the current definition of marriage," McKenna said in an interview with KCPQ-TV, Channel 13 on Wednesday.
The state Democratic Party pounced on the comments Thursday, issuing a statement that the two-term attorney general "has attempted to deflect criticism of his opposition to marriage equality by saying that it is an issue that should go before voters -- and now we know how he will vote."
Pro-Inslee forces are seizing on McKenna's comments, convinced it will prove very beneficial for the Democrat.
"It is the Democrats' hammer to say Rob McKenna is an extremist. They need that hammer," said Randy Pepple, McKenna's campaign manager. "If the subject is about the economy, Rob wins. If the subject is the state of education, Rob wins. If the subject is the size and inefficiencies of state government, Rob wins. Democrats need to change the subject."