Editor’s note: A revised version of the story appears below, correcting a candidate question near the end of the article. The question should have been about the role partisanship plays in government, not bipartisanship. Another question about traffic cameras and Selmann's reply is now elaborated on.
MOSES LAKE — The kid gloves came off Thursday morning as 13th district representative candidates Matt Manweller and Kaj Selmann met for their first formal debate.
"We're here in Big Bend Community College and Mr. Selmann says that, 'I'm not an educator. I work for a living," Manweller said after Selmann, a Moses Lake contractor, said he spent his summer "like most of the rest of you, actually having to work for a living" while Manweller campaigned to replace outgoing state Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elem.
"So far all of you professors, teachers and educators out there, apparently Mr. Selmann doesn't think you work for a living. I would have to take exception to that," Republican Manweller said. "If you're going to say things like that, if you're going to walk into a college and then say that professors don't work for a living , then maybe Olympia isn't the best place for you. Walking into the Ways and Means Committee and insulting half of the people in the audience is probably not going to garner a lot of support for the 13th Legislative District."
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Selmann had equally vitriolic statements to share.
"When he's literally stood on the capital steps and called public workers 'generational parasites' ... is just incredibly disingenuous," the Democrat said. "He's an excellent politician. I just don't think that a politician is what we need to actually solve the infrastructure problems that are the most pressing issues for this district."
Both men continued to use pointed language toward one another during the debate.
Selmann won the coin toss and elected to go on the offensive during opening remarks.
"These are problems that have the actions of a builder and not just the sound bytes of a politician," Selmann said of his opponent. "He knows the trigger words for a conservative district: He knows words like 'shrink government,' 'reign in bureaucracy,' and 'unleash power.' Unfortunately, sound bytes don't actually fix things."
In his closing statements, Manweller said that, regardless of who is elected to represent the district, they are going to have to work with a variety of people across both the aisle and the Cascades.
"And I think that today's debate has illustrated which one of us has the temperament in which to do that," he said. "I haven't attacked Kaj ... I came here and wanted to talk about my views of Washington state and my views of how I think we could grow jobs. And at every opportunity Mr. Selmann has attacked me and made little snide comments. I just don't think that that type of personality is going to be effective."
Selmann said from the start that he was not as good of a public speaker as Manweller, a political science professor at Central Washington University.
But the Democrat said his hope was to get down to the issues.
Both men said that, by the end of the debate, they wanted to leave voters with a better idea as to whom to cast their ballot for.
The two debated before a half-filled auditorium at Big Bend Community College, where college President Terry Leas moderated.
Moses Lake Mayor Bill Ecret served as emcee.
Selmann and Manweller were allowed a two-minute response per question, with a one-minute rebuttal.
Any follow-up questions were limited to one minute each.
When it comes to health care, Selmann said that market forces in conjunction with imposed safety nets should drive down costs.
Manweller said that torte reform and creating an open market for insurance companies would do the trick.
The issue of traffic cameras was also touched upon. Washington state allows the use of automated traffic enforcement cameras at traffic lights, schools zones and railroad crossings. However camera evidence may not be used to aid in criminal investigations. Candidates were asked if this restriction was appropriate
"I respect people's right to privacy, but when you're in public, these aren't cameras that are in your homes," Selman said. "These are cameras that are in public intersections, and they should be used to prosecute crimes."
Manweller called the tactic Orwellian, and said he wanted to keep cameras away from public surveillance.
When it comes to job creation, Manweller said the state Department of Ecology is the primary job-killer in the state.
The Republican said that the small business owners he's met with throughout the district tell him to bring regulatory reform, part of which includes Ecology easing regulations.
"Even in an economy when many places are losing businesses and businesses are failing ... we are actually able to bring new business to the area," Selmann said.
When Leas posed a question about the role bipartisanship plays in government, Selmann called it a "corruption and perversion of the process" and that "the system isn't working for the people."
Of the two candidates, Manweller said that he is the only one with a record of bipartisanship.
As a Republican, he was elected as president of the CWU Faculty Senate, "which is overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal," he said.
He served in the post from 2009-2010.
Manweller said he also served time across the aisle in Olympia to advocate on behalf of higher education.
"I actually have a record of bipartisanship that I'm proud of," he said.
On the topic of higher education, Selmann said a college education is a benefit for both the individual and the economy.
"What I'd really like to see is better integration and cooperation between local employers, community colleges, and increasing the use of technology to improve access to that education."
Manweller promoted Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna's proposal to fund college 50/50, splitting payments between the student and the state.
In 1992, the student was expected to pick up 30 percent of tuition and the state to foot the bill for 70 percent.
Since then, it's flipped, where it's 70/30 student/state.
"In many ways, colleges have become a private-sector entity," Manweller said.
Both candidates agreed that college education should focus more on the job opportunities available in the state.
"We have to make sure that we're offering education for the jobs that we actually have available in Washington," Manweller said. "We don't need more sociology majors who will end up with $30,000 in debt making me coffee."