Updated at 7:22 p.m. with a response from the McKenna campaign
They say don't shoot the messenger, but Washington Republican gubernatorial nominee Rob McKenna could be forgiven for considering it after RGA chairman Bob McDonnell veered off-script yesterday, tying him to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the same controversial conservative McKenna has been running from for months.
McDonnell told Republican Convention delegates from Washington State and Montana at a breakfast yesterday morning that McKenna would govern like Walker has in Wisconsin, the Seattle Times reported Tuesday.
"They balanced the budget without raising taxes, jobs are coming back to Wisconsin, they had their first property tax cut in 30 years, Wisconsin's back open for business," McDonnell said of Wisconsin Republicans. "That's what Scott Walked did in Wisconsin, and that's what (Montana gubernatorial nominee) Rick Hill and Rob McKenna are going to do in their states as well."
Just one problem with that: McKenna has spent the last few months distancing himself from Walker, who has become a model for incoming Republican governors across the country. While Walker's budget cuts and reining in of public unions may be great red meat for national conservatives, it doesn't play well in liberal Washington State.
In April, McKenna met with Washington union leaders, promising them that he would continue the state's strong relationship with unions should he be elected.
"Unfortunately because of a couple of governors, particularly Scott Walker, everyone thinks that if someone's going to be a Republican governor, they're going to be Scott Walker. I'm not Scott Walker. This is not Wisconsin, this is Washington State," he said
McKenna told the Seattle Times
as early as March that he opposed what Walker did with labor unions in Wisconsin, after state Democrats released an ad tying him to the Badger State governor. At the time McKenna noted that "collective bargaining is a right," but he also criticized politicians for being too eager to bow to labor's demands. He promised that he would be a stronger negotiator.
Asked about McDonnell's comments, McKenna spokesman Charles McCray
said the campaign was "energized by the enthusiasm" it has received from outside the state, but reiterated a common McKenna line: This race is about Washington and Washington only.
"This is not Wisconsin, Ohio, Hawaii, or any other state," McCray said in an email. "Rob developed solutions to specifically address the challenges that face Washington: under-performing schools, not enough family-wage jobs, and hyper-partisanship in the capitol."
McCray blamed the prominence of the Walker issue on McKenna's opponent, former Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee
, who he said was trying to nationalize the race. Inslee's campaign blasted out McDonnell's comments to the press just an hour after they appeared in the Times
McKenna shrugged off McDonnell's comments, saying in a statement that the focus should be on the chairman's point -- that McKenna is fiscally responsible -- rather than on Walker.
"Simply read what Gov. McDonnell actually said in order to understand what really has Congressman Inslee and his allies so upset - that I would balance the budget without raising taxes and bring jobs back to the state," McKenna said. "Clearly the mention of not raising taxes bothers Congressman Inslee, as that is exactly what he is planning to do."