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Originally published October 16, 2012 at 5:28 PM | Page modified October 16, 2012 at 7:21 PM

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Beyond ‘Gangnam’: Election issues that matter to young voters

Behind the gawky elbows and Tin Man hips, McKenna’s got some moves like Jagger when it comes to mastering issues that matter to millennials, writes editorial columnist Sharon Pian Chan.

Times editorial columnist

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I’ve seen my dad do the Funky Chicken Dance at a wedding. Once, he came back from a cruise and showed us his Macarena. Last week I watched gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna do a “Gangnam Style” dance at a Washington state Korean Association event on YouTube.

It’s a two-level inception: one dorky dad, McKenna, imitating another dorky dad, K-pop singer PSY.

I am a fan of the dorky dad. My dad funded my education. He demanded budget proposals before granting allowance raises. And behind the gawky elbows and Tin Man hips, the dorky dad running for governor has got the moves like Jagger when it comes to mastering issues that matter to millennials.

If you’re one, you have power in this election. The youngest outnumber the oldest now. There are 46 million eligible voters in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 29, compared with 39 million over the age of 65, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

As of Sept. 26, the number of younger people registering to vote in Washington state was lower this year than it was in 2008: 34,129 voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have registered so far this year, compared with 55,221 four years ago, according to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. Washington Bus, a nonprofit, said it has registered 11,000 young voters since then.

Can you afford college? Undergraduate in-state tuition at the University of Washington has almost doubled from $6,802in 2008 to $12,383 this school year.Tuition will keep rising without a clear state plan to fund college education.

McKenna, a Republican and the state’s attorney general, has pledged to limit growth of state government to the rate of inflation plus population growth, and invest the rest of the projected state revenue increase in education. “We’re going to prioritize the $11 billion of growth in state tax revenue that are being projected into education first, and we’ll allow the rest of the state budget to grow, but not as fast,” McKenna said last week.

His opponent, Jay Inslee, a Democrat and former congressman, talked a good game during the debate — “the percentage of our budget that goes to our schools is going to increase” — but he does not have a concrete plan for how to raise the money. His plan for cutting expenses through lean management practices sounded promising, until I asked King County, a model for lean government, how much the county had saved. Neither the King County executive nor the budget director could give a dollar figure.

As former President Bill Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention, the answer on education is simple: “Arithmetic.” McKenna has done the math. Inslee is using the imaginary number, i.

Will you be moving back into your parents’ house after you graduate? Let’s talk jobs, aka “now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

The U.S. unemployment rate, if you are between the ages of 20and 24, was 12.4 percent in September, compared with 7.8 percent for the general population.

Inslee wants to jump-start the state’s economy by giving tradable tax credits to research startups, increasing commercialization at research institutions and creating a biofuels Center for Excellence.

Here’s a reality check: Venture-capital funding for clean tech in the second quarter fell 11 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to The MoneyTree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data from Thomson Reuters.

McKenna would create “a level playing field” to reduce the cost for all businesses in the state, by reducing regulation and changing the business and occupation tax laws. Inslee will help you if you want to brew biofuel. McKenna is more likely to help if you want to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, dancer, teacher or poet.

Aside from the gubernatorial race, key issues on the Nov. 6 ballot speak directly to young voters. Referendum 74 would legalize same-sex marriage. Initiative 502 would legalize marijuana. Online registration is over but you have until Oct. 29 to register to vote at the King County Election locations in Seattle and Renton.

In the meantime, I’m going to send my dad a link to the Gangnam video. I can’t wait for Christmas.

Sharon Pian Chan's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter @sharonpianchan.

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