Jay Inslee (D), left, and Loren Culp (R). File photo

Jay Inslee (D), left, and Loren Culp (R). File photo

Gov. Inslee surges to big lead as he nears rare third term

Statewide office roundup: Schools chief Reykdal in close contest; Secretary of State Wyman fends off challenge.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee marched to an easy win over Republican Loren Culp on Tuesday to capture a rare third term as Washington state’s chief executive.

On the strength of support throughout the Puget Sound, Inslee led Culp, chief of police of the town of Republic, by a margin of 59.8% to 40.1% in the first night of ballot counting. In Snohomish County, Inslee received 76.2% to Culp’s 23.43%.

Meanwhile, Congressman Denny Heck was ahead of state Sen. Marko Liias in an all-Democrat contest to succeed retiring Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib.

And, in the tightest race for a statewide office, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman was clinging to a small lead on Democratic state Rep. Gael Tarleton. A Democrat has not held the job since the 1960s.

Nearly 3.3 million votes were tallied Tuesday. The next round of ballot counting in each county will be released throughout the day Wednesday.

Governor

With the victory, Inslee, 69, becomes only the second governor to serve three consecutive terms. Republican Dan Evans served from 1965-77.

Speaking outside the governor’s mansion, Inslee thanked voters and said the results are an affirmation of the policies enacted by he and Democratic lawmakers and a desire to “continue on the path to progress.”

As Inslee eyes another four years at the state’s helm, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and public life will continue to be a dominant challenge for his administration.

He said voters delivered a “mandate” Tuesday to defeat the coronavirus and “we intend to act on that mandate.”

“Difficult days are ahead but we know this, better days are certainly in our future and we intend to get there as fast as we humanly can,” he said.

Inslee’s political career started with two terms in the state House in the late 1980s, followed by two tours and 16 years in Congress and the past eight years as Washington’s governor.

In March, Inslee entered the race for president. He ended the bid a couple months later and quickly launched his latest campaign for governor.

Culp, 59, was making his first run for political office. He made the governor’s handling of the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic a central focus of his campaign. He repeatedly criticized Inslee’s decisions and urged defiance of some restrictions imposed to combat the spread of coronavirus.

“This is going to be the day we make history,” Culp said in a recorded message shared during a virtual state Republican Party rally early Tuesday. “We’ve got this.”

Tuesday night, Culp held an election night party in Tenino.

Inslee defended the way he steered the state through the uncharted waters of the pandemic. He acknowledged that limits on social gatherings and businesses, and a statewide mask mandate, were tough measures but were necessary to try to keep infection rates in check.

Looking to 2021, Inslee is expected to press lawmakers on legislation to combat climate change such as a low carbon fuel standard, a policy that has eluded him thus far. Also next year he’s likely to push for a capital gains tax and enact a sweeping set of policing reforms.

For much of the campaign, he offered little in the way of new ideas, in part because he and the Democratic majorities in the Legislature have done some heavy lifting in recent years. Laws have been passed to expand college aid, provide paid family leave and a long term care benefit, and transition to 100% clean electricity.

“We are not done yet,” he said Tuesday.

Denny Heck (left) and Marko Liias

Denny Heck (left) and Marko Liias

Lieutenant Governor

Heck, who has served in Congress the past decade, leads Liias, a veteran state lawmaker, 47.3% to 33.8% for the job that is first in succession to governor.

That aspect of the job may have gained in importance for some voters amid speculation that if Democrat oe Biden is elected president, Inslee could bolt for the right job offer to join his administration.

Early in the year, Heck announced he would not seek reelection to Congress and intended to retire. Then Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib declared he would not seek another term.

Heck put retirement on hold and jumped in. Liias, who is the majority floor leader in the state Senate, campaigned as the stronger voice for progressives.

Joshua Freed, a Republican, did conduct a write-in campaign for the office. On Tuesday, 18.9% cast a ballot for a write-in candidate.

Maia Espinoza (left) and Chris Reykdal

Maia Espinoza (left) and Chris Reykdal

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal was is in an unexpectedly close contest with challenger Maia Espinoza who made the race about the teaching of sex education and the pace of reopening public schools.

Reykdal, a former teacher and Democratic state lawmaker, has a lead on Espinoza, 56.75% to 42.76%.

Espinoza, 31, who is making her first run for statewide office, focused on Reykdal’s support of a new law mandating that public schools adopt sexual health education curricula for all grade levels. She also pushed to provide direct aid to parents whose children are learning remotely.

The winner will get a four-year term guiding the state’s public school system which includes 295 school districts and roughly 1.2 million students from preschool to high school.

It is a nonpartisan job but in the final days of the campaign Reykdal turned to his partisan allies, including Inslee for support and help in tieing Espinoza, a Republican, to the policies of President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Gael Tarleton (left) and Kim Wyman

Gael Tarleton (left) and Kim Wyman

Secretary of State

Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman leads Democratic state Rep. Gael Tarleton, 51.63% to 48.26%.

Wyman, who is seeking a third term as the overseer of the state’s election system, is one of only two Republicans holding statewide office in the state. She faces Tarleton, a four-term state representative from Seattle.

Both back the state’s vote-by-mail system, and Wyman has appeared on national news networks extolling the safety and security of the process, which has been in place in Washington for years.

But as she was during her 2016 reelection bid, Wyman was criticized by opponents for not speaking more forcefully against Trump when he has attacked the integrity of mail voting.

Bob Ferguson (left) and Matt Larkin

Bob Ferguson (left) and Matt Larkin

Attorney General

Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is pursuing a third term, led Republican Matt Larkin, 59.02% to 40.88%.

Ferguson established a reputation this past four years as a fierce legal protagonist to the Trump Administration, compiling an almost unbeaten record.

Larkin, whose endorsements include Granite Falls Rep. Robert Sutherland, Snohomish Mayor John Kartak, and GOP stalwart Dino Rossi, sought to portray Ferguson as soft on crime and public safety.

Hilary Franz (left) and Sue Kuehl Pedersob

Hilary Franz (left) and Sue Kuehl Pedersob

Commissioner of Public Lands

Hilary Franz, the incumbent Democratic commissioner, was soundly beating Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson, a fisheries biologist, for the four-year job overseeing the state Department of Natural Resources.

Franz, who is pursuing a second term, received 59.23% to Pederson’s 40.68%.

Insurance Commissioner

Democrat Mike Kreidler, who has served as insurance commissioner since 2001, was comfortably ahead of Republican Chirayu Avinash Patel.

Kreidler, a former state lawmaker and congressman, had 67.76% to Patels 31.81%.

Treasurer

Republicans are in danger of losing this statewide office as Democratic challenger Mike Pellicciotti of Federal Way is leading incumbent Treasurer Duane Davidson in the first night of ballot counting.

Pellicciotti, a state representative from Federal Way, leads Davidson 55.75% to 44.17% in the initial round of ballot counting. Davidson is seeking a second term.

Auditor

State Auditor Pat McCarthy is on course to win a second term following a strong showing Tuesday.

McCarthy, a Democrat from Pierce County, had a comfortable advantage on Republican Chris Leyba, 60.61% to 39.31%.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. File photo
Encouraging numbers for kokanee salmon spawn count

Lake Sammamish kokanee aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but… Continue reading

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

In this file photo, Tayshon Cottrell dons his graduation cap and gown, along with a face mask reading: “Wear it! Save America” at Todd Beamer High School’s virtual graduation walk recording on May 20, 2020, in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

File photo
Study shows Washingtonians exceeded ‘heavy drinking’ threshold in 2020

The survey suggests Washingtonians drank more than 17 alcoholic beverages a week on average.

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19, 2021. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Malden, after a wildfire burned down 80% of the town’s buildings in Eastern Washington. Courtesy photo
DNR commissioner seeks $125 million to fight wildfires

In Washington state last September, some 600,000 acres burned within 72 hours.

Washington State Supreme Court Justices (back row, L-R) Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary I. Yu, G. Helen Whitener, (front row, L-R) Susan Owens, Charles W. Johnson, Steven C. Gonzalez, Barbara A. Madsen and Debra L. Stephens.
Justices strike down Washington state drug possession law

Police must stop arresting people for simple possession.

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

Most Read