In the tight race to be the state’s top lawyer, King County Councilman Rob McKenna was leading late Tuesday night over controversial former insurance commissioner Deborah Senn.
Neither side was conceding or claiming victory, but with the early precincts counted, McKenna was leading, 52 percent to 45 percent.
“We feel pretty good,” said McKenna’s campaign manager, Craig Wright. “We’re encouraged by the results.”
Senn was leading in King County but trailing in Pierce and Snohomish counties. She was far behind in Spokane County.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Senn’s campaign manager, Karen Besserman. At times during the September primary election, she said, Senn was down more than she was late Tuesday night – and Senn won the primary.
Although the attorney general is the second most powerful state official – and often a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion – this year’s race was largely drowned out by bigger federal races and the battle for governor. The race is being closely watched, however, by business groups, which spent nearly $3 million in ads attacking Senn’s tenure as insurance commissioner. Among Senn’s foes: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, drug and tobacco companies, oil companies and homebuilders.
McKenna was targeted by the state Democratic Party, which spent about $800,000 on ads attacking him and other Republicans, according to the Associated Press. The chief criticism: that McKenna, a Catholic, supports legislation banning abortion. Not true, McKenna said. He said that he’s opposed to abortion personally, but that his political stance is that the matter should be left up to the woman.
During the campaign, Senn, 55, vowed to be “the people’s attorney general,” and fight predatory lenders, identity thieves and Internet spam and spyware. She said she’d likely investigate why drug and gas prices are so high.
“This is an office that requires a consumer advocate, someone who wants to represent the people, and someone who’s fearless,” she said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review last summer.
McKenna, 42, also vowed to fight for Washingtonians, saying he’d double the number of attorneys – now six – in the AG’s consumer-protection bureau.