Gubernatorial debate: Inslee, Bryant clash over death penalty, education funding, homeless issue

PASCO, Wash. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant clashed over the death penalty, Hanford lawsuits and their visions of the state in their third and final debate of the 2016 campaign.

Sponsored by the Washington State Debate Coalition, the debate occurred Wednesday evening at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

Inslee is a former congressman seeking his second term as governor. He said Washington has the nation's best economy and was making progress on a host of problems.

Bryant, a former Seattle port commissioner, painted a picture of a state in dire straits because of a disengaged governor. He said he would be "an engaged, activist governor."

Inslee said he would continue his moratorium against the use of the death penalty, while Bryant said he would follow laws that allow the use of the death penalty.

Bryant contended the state's lawsuits were not speeding the cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, while Inslee said sometimes litigation is necessary.

Bryant has criticized Inslee, saying he had mismanaged state departments. He also contends Inslee has failed to come up with a plan to fund K-12 education, as mandated by the state Supreme Court.

Inslee countered that the state has invested billions in public education, that significant strides have been made to increase pay for teachers and increase access to kindergarten.

When asked if there should be a state homelessness czar, Bryant said, "We don't need a homelessness czar, we need a governor."

Inslee says he's helped create 250,000 jobs.