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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In the 6th Legislative District, Graham and Volz hold narrow leads

Rep. Jenny Graham, left, and Tom McGarry.

The races for two seats representing the 6th Legislative District in the House of Representatives remained too close to call on Tuesday night. 

Two Democratic newcomers made a strong push to turn this reliably red district blue, but Republican incumbents held on to narrow leads as unofficial results were posted. The district has been a Republican stronghold for the past decade, but both races were expected to be tightly contested in 2020. 

The 6th District wraps around central Spokane to the south, west and north, from the South Hill and Valleyford to the Indian Trail and Five Mile neighborhoods. It then stretches west, covering the West Plains, Cheney, Medical Lake, and parts of unincorporated Spokane.

House Position 2

Incumbent Rep. Jenny Graham took the lead over challenger and Democrat Tom McGarry with 53% of the vote so far to McGarry’s 47%. 

Graham is an anti-tax incumbent who has increasingly made human trafficking a core issue of her tenure in office.

McGarry, a real estate attorney and county fire commissioner, ran as a moderate Democrat who would put faith in public health officials to lead the state through the coronavirus pandemic.

Graham’s campaign was tumultuous, but even as her words drew national media attention during the campaign, it was unclear whether local constituents would punish Graham.

In June, she shared a Facebook post that inaccurately described Dr. Anthony Fauci’s position on a potential coronavirus vaccine. The post was flagged as untrue by Facebook.

Then, in September, she faced fallout for threatening an Inlander reporter over a story that outlined how Graham inadvertently shares links to websites that promulgate conspiracy theories.

The outburst, recorded on Inlander reporter Daniel Walters’ voicemail, was covered by national media outlets, including The Washington Post.

Graham declined to debate McGarry during the campaign.

On Tuesday, KHQ reported that Graham was recovering from COVID-19 and watching the election results in quarantine. 

She’s been a staunch advocate for victims of crimes, citing her experience following the murder of her sister, Debra “Debbie” Estes, by the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, in 1982.

McGarry presented himself to voters as the only “serious” candidate in the race, and sought to paint Graham as an unserious representative who failed to adequately address the coronavirus pandemic.

Graham handily won the primary election, in which two Democrats competed for votes. But in 2018, she won the general election by less than a percentage point to earn her first term. 

House Position 1

State Rep. Mike Volz took an early lead in his bid for a third term in the House of Representatives, but the race was far from decided. Volz had 51% of the vote, compared to 49% for challenger Zack Zappone. 

The race between Volz, a Republican, and Zappone, a Democrat revealed their different views on the role of government.

Volz pointed to his record of opposition to tax increases and a résumé of fiscal responsibility that he believes is in line with the will of 6th District voters.

Zappone, a political newcomer, challenged that voting record and laid out priorities that include ensuring access to health care, investing in transportation infrastructure, and funding the state’s education system.

The two sparred over how the state should reconcile the state budget gap left by the coronavirus. Volz opposed implementing new taxes to raise revenues and suggested the state’s budget has ballooned beyond its means in recent years. Zappone advocated for a tax on capital gains of over $50,000.

The two candidates brought different backgrounds to the race.

Volz has served as Spokane County’s deputy treasurer for the past decade and is a certified public accountant, qualifications he touted during the race.

Zappone is a former history teacher who highlighted the importance of education funding during the campaign. 

Zappone questioned Volz’s voting record on LBGTQ issues, such as his opposition to a bill that banned conversion therapy, while Volz accused Zappone of endorsing policies that would increase taxes on 6th District residents.

Zappone’s fight was uphill after the primary election, which Volz won by about 10 percentage points.