Lt. Gov. Brad Owen on Tuesday sent a scathing letter to state Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-Bellevue), accusing Habib of engaging in Donald Trump-like tactics in the campaign to succeed Owen.
“I am disappointed that you have crossed the line and have made meaningless and “Donald Trump” type proposals to get elected to office,” Owen wrote. “I call upon you to tone down your rhetoric and dismiss these proposals of yours which demean the office of Lieutenant Governor and will create chaos in the Washington State Senate.”
In an email to KING 5, Owen said he didn’t intend to get involved in the race, but said he believes Habib “has been going so far out of line with unsupportable commitments to gain endorsements,” such as the powerful Washington Education Association.
"The first and most irresponsible and unconstitutional statement that you made is that you will not sign a budget bill that does not fulfill what you believe the direction given by the Supreme Court to the legislature in the McCleary decision," wrote Owen. "If you wish to veto legislation, perhaps you should run for Governor."
Owen is retiring at the end of 2016 after serving 20 years as the state’s No. 2 executive.
Habib said the letter came as a surprise and is filled with "inaccuracies."
“It’s almost hard to take this letter seriously when he refers to the idea of using the office to champion education, access to government, and protecting the public from gun violence in the Senate chamber as “Donald Trump-like proposals,” Habib wrote in a statement to KING 5.
Habib has campaigned on pushing the legislature to fully funding public education, as required by the state constitution and the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
However, he said he recognizes he doesn't have the ability to block legislation if the Senate decided to move ahead.
“I have said that I would use every tool at the disposal of the Lieutenant Governor to oppose an unconstitutional budget that doesn’t meet the court’s order,” Habib said. "If I feel that the Senate has passed a blatantly unconstitutional piece of legislation, I would leave it to the President Pro Tem to sign the bill, and would let the record show that, in my judgement, the bill had constitutional defects."
On Thursday, Habib sent Owen a letter of his own, writing in part "Your own understanding and use of power in this office have not been without controversy."
Twelve candidates are running for lieutenant governor. Habib has raised the most money so far, more than $560,000, according filings with the Public Disclosure Commission. records.
Other leading candidates include Democratic state sens. Karen Fraser and Steven Hobbs, and Republicans Phillip Yin and Javier Figueroa.