Washington state’s costly race for governor was too close to call Tuesday night, with hundreds of thousands of ballots left to count.
Early results showed Democrat Jay Inslee holding a slight lead over Republican Rob McKenna, with a nearly two-to-one advantage in the population-rich King County. The two candidates have been competing in one of the most watched and most expensive gubernatorial races in the country, totaling a price tag of over $40 million.
As of Tuesday night, many ballots remained uncounted while others have yet to arrive at election offices around the state.
Washington has a recent history of competitive gubernatorial races. Most notably, current Gov. Chris Gregoire won the 2004 race by a mere 133 votes after two recounts and a court challenge.
Republicans last won a governor’s race in the state in 1980, when John Spellman was elected. Voters ousted Spellman at the end of his first term, around the time McKenna was student body president at the University of Washington.
Washington U.S. Senate race
Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell has clinched re-election, defeating Republican newcomer Michael Baumgartner to win her third term.
In early returns Tuesday night, Cantwell led Baumgartner 60 percent to 40 percent.
Baumgartner issued a statement conceding to Cantwell Tuesday night: “Although we did not win, we were heard and we should all be proud of how hard we fought to try to fix our broken Washington D.C., and to make known that we will not accept $16 trillion in debt, a poorly planned foreign policy and the erosion of the liberties that make America exceptional.”
Cantwell, Washington state’s junior senator, led from the start, amassing a war chest worth more than $8 million that dwarfed Baumgartner’s effort, which added up to about $1 million.
Baumgartner is a first-term state senator from the Spokane area who previously worked as a foreign policy consultant.
Initiative 502: Legalized marijuana
Legalized marijuana for adults, Initiative 502, was passing 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent.
Washington voters made their state the first in the nation to legalize recreational pot use, setting up a showdown with a federal government that backs the drug’s prohibition.
The outcomes of related measures in Colorado and Oregon were uncertain.
The Washington measure sets up a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, where adults over 21 can buy up to an ounce. It also establishes a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.
Estimates have showed pot taxes could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but the sales won’t start until state officials make rules to govern the legal weed industry.
Referendum 74: Same-sex marriage
Washington voters are narrowly approving gay marriage in the state, following the lead of voters in Maryland and Maine, where ballot measures on same-sex unions also are holding slim leads.
With about half of the expected vote counted Tuesday night, Referendum 74 was passing with 53 percent of the vote.
The referendum asked voters to approve or reject the state’s new law legalizing same-sex marriage. That law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year, but it’s been on hold pending the election’s outcome.
About $13.6 million was spent on Washington state’s campaign, with the bulk of it coming from gay marriage supporters.
Other ballot measures
Early results indicate Washington voters want to continue to require the Legislature to get a two-thirds majority vote to raise taxes.
But they show a less decisive picture on an initiative that would allow charter schools in the state.
The early returns Tuesday night show the charter schools measure, Initiative 1240, is passing narrowly statewide. But it’s behind in voter-rich King County.
The supermajority proposal, Initiative 1185, appears to be passing decisively statewide.
Anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman is calling on the Legislature to amend the constitution to make the two-thirds requirement permanent.
Fifth Congressional District
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, GOP, was re-elected to the U.S. House.
King County Councilman Bob Ferguson was leading fellow councilman Reagan Dunn in the race to become Washington’s next attorney general.
Ferguson had a narrow lead after initial returns were posted Tuesday night, including an advantage in populous King County.
Ferguson, a Democrat, has offered himself as an independent-minded lawyer who would stress consumer protection. Dunn has touted his experience as a U.S. prosecutor.
Ferguson was an attorney at a prominent Seattle law firm before he entered politics. He was first elected to the County Council in 2003.
Washington Legislative District 3
Democrat Andy Billig was leading Republican Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin for Washington Senate, 58.1 percent to 41.9 percent.
Democrat Marcus Riccelli defeated Republican Tim Benn, 62.7 percent to 37.3 percent, for the House seat Billig is vacating.
Incumbent Timm Ormsby, a Democrat, retained his House seat after a challenge by Republican Dave White, 62.4 percent to 37.6 percent.
Washington Legislative District 4
Republican Matt Shea was heading to victory with a 56.4 percent to 43.6 percent lead over Democratic challenger Amy Biviano.
District 4 Sen. Mike Padden and Rep. Larry Crouse were uncontested in the race.
Washington Legislative District 6
Republican Jeff Holy had a comfortable 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent lead over Democrat Dennis Dellwo for the House seat vacated by retiring Rep. John Ahern.
Republican Rep. Kevin Parker was uncontested for his District 6 seat.
Spokane County Commission
Republican incumbent Commissioner Todd Mielke enjoyed a 53.8 percent to 46.2 percent lead over challenger John Roskelley, a Democrat who held the seat from 1995 to 2004.
Shelly O’Quinn, a Republican, was leading Democrat Daryl Romeyn 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Mark Richard’s decision not to run for re-election.
Washington Supreme Court
Sheryl Gordon McCloud was leading former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent.
First Congressional District
Democrat Suzan DelBene is leading Republican John Koster in Washington’s most contested congressional race.
In early returns Tuesday night, DelBene led by 55 percent to 45 percent for Koster in the race for the open 1st Congressional District seat.
Spanning from the suburbs of King County to the Canadian border in Whatcom County, the sprawling district was seen as a toss-up throughout the election.
DelBene, a former Microsoft executive, defeated a group of Democrats in the primary to face Koster, who faced little opposition from his own party. DelBene used more than $2 million of her own money in the campaign.
After the 2010 Census, Washington gained a congressional seat. The state now has 10.
Exit polling shows economy top concern
Exit polling by The Associated Press shows the Washington state voters, like their counterparts nationally, consider the economy the top issue in this election.
Just over 1 in 5 say the economy is now excellent or good. About 1 in 4 think their financial situation improved in the last four years, while slightly more said their finances have gotten worse since President Barack Obama won election four years ago.
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State wants details on ballot pickup programs
3:08 p.m. — The secretary of state’s office wants Republicans and Democrats to provide the names and addresses of any voters whose ballots have been collected by the parties or their affiliates.
State elections co-director Katie Blinn sent a letter Tuesday to the state party chairmen, their counterparts in the Democratic and Republican parties in King County, as well as the campaign managers for gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee. Voters in King County had previously been warned by election officials not to give their ballots to groups offering to collect them, but to instead mail ballots themselves or drop them off at official locations.
It’s not illegal for parties to pick up voters’ ballots, but Blinn said there are concerns about the potential for intimidation and tampering.