The final debate of the AWB Policy Summit began on a light note, with moderator Peter Callaghan noting the musical ties of incumbent Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Bill Finkbeiner.
"This is actually not a debate," Callaghan said. "This is Lieutenant Governor 2012: The Musical."
The debate later turned testy, though, when Finkbeiner made an issue of Owen's use of surplus campaign funds to pay for alcohol and lunch for his staff.
It drew an angry response from Owen, who said he bought alcohol to entertain officials guests at his home and he treated his staff to special meals as a reward.
"That's a legitimate use of surplus funds and he knows that," Owen said referring to Finkbeiner. He added, "Bill is making a big deal that some people used (surplus funds) for suits and fixing their car, but I didn't."
Finkbeiner insisted that the spending is a legitimate issue, though, saying it's the state Public Disclosure Commission that's looking into Owen's spending. Finkbeiner said he has called for the elimination of office funds, or "slush funds," like the one Owen used.
"I don't think it's appropriate," Finkbeiner said.
In addition to the spending issue, Finkbeiner attempted to differentiate himself from Owen by saying he would expand the role of lieutenant governor and use it to help the Legislature function better.
He has proposed removing the physical aisle between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate floor. Forcing leaders from the two parties to sit next to each other would promote better relations and lead to friendly conversations about children, grandchildren and weekend plans.
Owen emphasized his experience in the position and his work to promote Washington products during international trade missions.
Owen described his role as a negotiatior between Republican and Democrat leaders during a Republican take-over the Senate earlier this year as example of how he uses his experience to help the Senate function.
Owen said he has elevated the position of lieutenant governor and "run a tight ship."
The hour-long exchange was the last of three debates AWB hosted Wednesday during the Policy Summit and this election cycle.