Bill Bryant at a campaign rally in Tacoma on July 25.
Bill Bryant at a campaign rally in Tacoma on June 25. HG

With a month left until the primary, Bill Bryant—somehow the best candidate state Republicans could find to challenge Governor Jay Inslee this year—has been honing his message. He's blaming Inslee for bad management, bad schools, bad job growth, and, Republicans' favorite, bad traffic.

"We don't have a governor who is focused on actually ensuring that people can get to work on time, get home in the evening, or ensuring we can move freight around this state," Bryant said in a freewheeling anti-government gab session with KIRO's Dori Monson last week. "And unless we deal with the traffic congestion problem, which is getting worse every year—every year, Dori—if we don't deal with it we're going to see it not only cause our quality of life to deteriorate but our economy is going to deteriorate as well."

Monson agreed: "We have people who run things around here who have never spent a day of their life in the private sector. We got a mania with public transportation and it's an essential element, but it doesn't reflect people's lives."

Part of that "mania with public transportation" presumably includes Sound Transit 3, the proposal to double light rail in the region. As we head toward the November vote, ST3 will undoubtedly be the biggest transportation fight in the state. But Bryant apparently hasn't read it.

Dori Monson: Have you come out in favor or opposed to the $54 billion Sound Transit proposal that's gonna be on the ballot?

Bill Bryant: I haven't. I'm waiting to see what exactly what they're putting on there. But I'll tell you: The idea that we would spend tens of billions of dollars on a project that won't be ready for 30 years and, even when it's ready and it is operating, is only going to move between 2 and 4 percent of the riders—

DM: But you haven't decided yet?

BB: Well, I want to actually see what the final package and what the projects—but you can tell where I'm going on this. We need to spend money on public transit that's actually going to move people.

DM: Well, yeah, yeah, but, I just, what could possibly be in that that would make you support it?

BB: I—that would be a tough one, but I just don't want to make a decision until I actually read the proposal.

The thing is "exactly what they're putting on there" has been public for months. The Sound Transit board announced the first version of ST3 in March and the latest draft in May. The board officially sent ST3 to the ballot on June 23. All the documents associated with the plan are online and have been covered extensively by local media.

Bryant either doesn't know this or is purposefully choosing to ignore it so he can avoid taking a position—a move that would be right on brand. During his campaign for governor, Bryant has refused to say whether he'll vote for Donald Trump (listen to the end of that KIRO interview to hear him dodge that question again). He hasn't returned requests for comment about Brexit. And, although he has admitted he disagrees with the Washington State Human Rights Commission's ruling protecting trans people's access to bathrooms, Bryant has avoided answering directly whether he supports the far-reaching anti-trans Initiative 1515.

By avoiding answering these questions Bryant can claim to be a moderate, even as his party drifts off the rails.

In his interview with Monson, Bryant hinted at support of bus rapid transit over light rail because buses could come online "within a few years rather than a few decades." But BRT only begins to actually be comparable to light rail if we take away significant amounts of road space from cars to allow buses to be fast and reliable—a prospect Republicans are unlikely to embrace any time soon.

Until Bryant decides to actually answer the question about ST3 and/or present a real plan to "deal with the traffic congestion problem," all we have is the message from his party. The latest Washington State Republican Party platform, which claims climate change isn't real and opposes the "blurring of gender distinctions," says this:

Our state's limited transportation funding should not be squandered on commuter trains, light rail and concepts such as "complete streets." We support a transportation system that enables people to take free choices for themselves and their businesses, not one that attempts to manipulate and control how they travel.