Interview with Rob McKenna

Iman is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.

I had the awesome opportunity to interview Washington State's Attorney General Rob McKenna on behalf of the Junior State of America. McKenna served two terms on the King County Council before being elected Attorney General for Washington in 2004, a title he still holds. McKenna was elected President of the National Association of Attorneys General and named Outstanding Attorney General in 2011. McKenna is now trying to recapture the Governor's mansion for the Republican Party in November.

When I approached him about why should young people vote for him, McKenna explained to me that it is because of his campaign's focus on education: "Young voters should be concerned about our education system and my campaign has emphasized improving and funding our education system from the beginning, which the state supreme court has found is not adequately funded by the state. And our state colleges and university have lost a tremendous amount of funding over the last several years as the legislature and Governor have shifted funding away from higher education to other areas."

However, like most other states, Washington has had major budget problems over the last several years. But McKenna says that won't stop his agenda. He explains, "The state budget is projected to grow by 36 percent over the next eight years, which is over $11.3 billion, and we will prioritizing education funding as the state budget grows."

He also feels that the education system needs reform: "You cannot simply put more money into the same system and get better results, so we will need to reform and innovate in the delivery of education. For example, we need to connect how we pay educators and their actual performance and we need to measure their performance with multiple measures of student progress -- not just whether students score higher at the end of the year, but whether they are progressing throughout the year."

He even went on to say that the first change he would enact as Governor would be "to comply with the State Supreme Court order that the State to begin to fund public schools and not rely so heavily on local funding." He says he will be proposing a budget that moves in that direction.

This bold move to make education the top issue in his gubernatorial campaign may help McKenna become the first Republican Governor of Washington in 32 years. The last Republican Governor of Washington was one-term Governor John Spellman in 1980. Most polls between McKenna and his Democratic opponent, Congressman Jay Inslee, have them neck and neck.

With that said, McKenna says this is what his campaign expected the close race and referred back to the 2004 gubernatorial campaign, the last time that the seat was open to both parties. The race was between Republican Dino Rossi and the current Governor, Democrat Christine Gregoire, and Gregoire won by 133 votes.

When I approached him about the fact that there hasn't been a Republican governor in 32 years, he explains his belief that "each election stands on its own with regards to the issues in the foremost of voters' minds." But he also thinks it's time for change in Olympia: "I do think voters are ready for a change in Olympia and after 28 years of one party rule, they are ready to put a new team on the field and bring a new approach to state government."

He also told me that his experience as Attorney General will help him in the Governor's office because it has allowed him to "represent the entire state and visit every corner of the state." But, it also been a learning experience for him, as he explained to me: "I also have gained a great deal of knowledge about how state government works because I've been working with clients that who are the state agencies that are providing all the services state government is responsible for. And I have leadership and executive experience in running a large agency that will allow me to go into all the state agencies in order to improve them."

With regards to getting involved on a campaign, McKenna told me he believes it is the best way to appreciate and understand our process: "The best way to appreciate our political process is to volunteer for a campaign and support a candidate you believe in. You can study government and politics in school, but the best way to really understand the process is to volunteer your time."

He also went to on to explain the importance of youth in the political process, "the participation of young people in our political process is crucial. Our whole system depends on individuals volunteering to run for office or to help them run for office. No one picks our leaders for us, we pick them from among our own citizens. So, it's vital to have people of all people of all ages involved in this system of self- government."

If you would like to get involved in Rob McKenna's campaign, check out his website.