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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Democratic incumbents capture new terms for Washington attorney general, auditor land commissioner, insurance commissioner

Attorney Matt Larkin, left, faces state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

In down-ballot statewide executive races, Democrat incumbents were prevailing Tuesday night.

As of Tuesday night, Bob Ferguson captured a third term as attorney general’s race. He was leading Republican Matt Larkin by 18 percentage points in Tuesday’s count.

The race matched an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump with a strong supporter: Democratic incumbent Ferguson, a former attorney with one of the state’s biggest firms and a former King County councilman, with Matt Larkin, an attorney who serves as legal counsel to his family’s manufacturing company.

Ferguson, who had planned to run for governor until incumbent Jay Inslee left the presidential campaign to seek a third term, developed a growing national profile among Democrats for his legal battles with the Trump administration.

Like other Republicans, Larkin was critical of the number of lawsuits, which he contended was taking time and resources away from pressing state matters, such as crime and mental health.

Larkin had a late-October television ad campaign, but was still outspent almost 3-to-1 by Ferguson.

Commissioner of public lands

Democrat Hilary Franz won a second term after beating Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson for the commissioner of public lands position.

Franz was about 19 percentage points above Kuehl Pederson, as of Tuesday night.

Throughout the campaign, Kuehl Pederson, a natural resource biologist, argued Franz’s mismanagement of lands has led to more forest fires, some of the worst the state’s seen. Franz pointed to her 10-year wildfire strategic plan and 20-year forest health strategic plans, which treats forests with prescribed burning and thinning, as the best way forward when preventing and fighting fires.

Kuehl Pederson said it’s not enough and that easy solutions should be put in place now, rather than in 20 years.

Franz called on the Legislature to provide proper resources and funding to improve wildfire fighting and prevention, something she does not think they have made a priority.

State auditor

Democrat Pat McCarthy will maintain her position as state auditor, after beating Republican Chris Leyba, a police officer.

McCarthy finished about 21 percentage points above Leyba, as of Tuesday night.

Leyba was critical of McCarthy’s handling of COVID-19, saying her lack of leadership led to large-scale fraud in the Employment Security Department.

McCarthy said the auditor’s office is much more reactive than it is proactive. Throughout the pandemic, McCarthy said she has dealt with an unprecedented amount of new money coming in. It’s her job to make sure it is used properly.

The leadership she showed throughout the pandemic is something she will continue in her second term, McCarthy said.

Insurance commissioner

Democrat Mike Kreidler easily won a new term as insurance commissioner, beating Republican Chirayu Patel by about 36 percentage points in Tuesday’s count.

Kreidler is finishing his fifth term, which makes him the longest-serving elected official in a statewide post. A former congressman, he’s been a strong proponent of the Affordable Care Act and its provisions that allowed Washington to expand Medicaid with the federal government picking up the lion’s share of the cost. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he established rules for coverage of the testing and treating of patients.

Republican Chirayu Patel, a first-time candidate with some experience as an insurance agent, mounted an unusual campaign in which he described himself as an autistic savant who talked of connecting with the minds of Ronald Reagan and Thomas Jefferson for advice on how to run the office.

As of Monday, he had reported no campaign contributions or expenditures, although he had missed multiple reporting deadlines.

Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Camden contributed to this report.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.