Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna will continue their battle for the job of Washington’s chief executive for at least another day.
Ballots tallied Tuesday night gave Inslee a lead of about 50,000 votes out of 1.8 million counted, leaving the race too close to call. With as many as half of the ballots still to be counted, Inslee has 51.3 percent of the votes to McKenna’s 48.7 percent. McKenna leads throughout Eastern Washington, including Spokane, where he has nearly 19,000 more votes than Inslee. But Inslee is leading in King County and most other counties that touch Puget Sound. Both were confident of eventual victory.
“It takes a little bit longer,” McKenna told supporters. “This year, it will be worth the wait.”
“I believe tonight our state has taken another step forward and elected a forward-looking governor, and I believe I’m that person,” Inslee told Democrats.
Democrats running for other statewide office may have been helped by President Barack Obama, who collected about 55 percent of Washington’s vote. They lead in seven of the eight partisan races for statewide office, but Republican Kim Wyman has a slight lead for secretary of state.
Although more than 1 million ballots are likely to be counted, it was clear that Treasurer Jim McIntire, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark had won another term. Holding narrower leads were Bob Ferguson in the attorney general’s race, Brad Owen in the lieutenant governor’s race and Troy Kelley in the state treasurer’s race.
For months, Inslee and McKenna waged a tight, expensive and often rancorous race for the seat being vacated by Chris Gregoire, who announced more than a year ago that she wouldn’t seek a third term. The winner faces daunting fiscal issues, because expected revenues won’t cover approved state programs and salaries through the end of next June, and a state Supreme Court decision could mean the state needs another $1 billion to fulfill its constitutional obligation to public schools.
All eight of the state’s other executive offices were also on the ballot. Here are how the seven contested races look after ballot totals had been reported from all of Washington’s 39 counties Tuesday night:
Owen, a four-term incumbent, faced a strong challenge from Republican Bill Finkbeiner, a former state Senate majority leader, but finished Tuesday night with a lead of about 130,000 votes.
Owen has had relatively easy re-election runs in the past to retain the job as the stand-in for the governor. But this year he faced a well-funded and articulate candidate, and questions about his travel expenses.
A pair of King County councilmen, Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Ferguson, wanted McKenna’s job of attorney general, and spent about $1.5 million each to win it.
Dunn emphasized his experience as a criminal prosecutor, something Ferguson didn’t have in his civil practice. But the job is mainly civil, Ferguson argued, representing the state in lawsuits, advising its many departments and agencies and running what’s essentially the largest law firm.
Secretary of state
This seat too was open, with the retirement of Republican Sam Reed after three terms. His choice for a successor was Thurston County Auditor Wyman and she breezed through the primary. Former state Sen. Kathleen Drew, also of Thurston County and an adviser to Gregoire on streamlining government, topped two other Democrats and three minor party candidates to make it to the general.
Both want changes to the state’s election laws. Wyman would like Washington to be like most states and require all ballots to be received by Election Day rather than merely postmarked. Drew would like the state to have same-day registration, as Idaho has, and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to “pre-register,” so that they’d be automatically registered when they turn 18.
Wyman leads by fewer than 15,000 votes.
Democrat state Rep. Kelley faced Republican businessman James Watkins in the race to replace longtime State Auditor Brian Sonntag. Kelley is ahead by fewer than 75,000 votes in another race that features Eastern Washington support for the Republican and West Side support for the Democrat.
Public lands commissioner
In the only race that featured two Eastern Washington candidates, Okanogan rancher Peter Goldmark, the Democratic public lands commissioner, faced a challenge from Connell farmer Clint Didier, a former NFL star.
Goldmark, who leads by about 250,000 votes, is ahead in both Spokane and Whitman counties as well as most Puget Sound counties.
Three-term incumbent Mike Kreidler easily defeated Republican John Adams for the third time. Kreidler has been a major supporter of the federal health care reform, sometimes called Obamacare, and topped Adams by more than 260,000 votes in Tuesday night’s count.
When no Republican filed to challenge first-term Treasurer Jim McIntire, a Democrat, in the primary, Sharon Hanek mounted a write-in campaign and captured enough votes to qualify for the general election ballot. But McIntire outspent the poorly funded Hanek nearly 10-to-1, and on Tuesday night was the clear winner. He was ahead of the Republican certified public accountant by about 260,000 votes.