Incumbent State Rep. Jenny Graham appears poised for re-election in the 6th Legislative District with her lead widening as additional ballots were tallied on Wednesday, and her opponent issued a concession.
Graham comfortably leads opponent Tom McGarry with 53.6% of the vote, compared to McGarry’s 46.3%.
McGarry conceded the race on Wednesday evening. In a statement, he thanked those who worked on his campaign.
“While we disagree on many issues, no one can question Rep. Graham’s passion and dedication to those issues she holds dear,” McGarry said.
Graham revealed Tuesday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Citing her illness, Graham declined to comment when reached by The Spokesman-Review on Wednesday evening.
Her seatmate, Republican Rep. Mike Volz, also increased his lead over Democratic challenger Zack Zappone.
Zappone, with 48.4% of the vote, trails Volz, who has 51.5% of the vote.
To overcome his 2,495-vote deficit, Zappone would have to win a substantial majority of the remaining uncounted ballots – something he did not achieve on Wednesday.
A Zappone campaign official said Wednesday that he would wait for all votes to be counted.
The results are unofficial until certified by the Spokane County Auditor.
Both races were expected to be close heading into Election Day.
For even one of the two Republicans to lose their seat would be an eye-opening development in a district that has not elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives or Senate since 2008.
The Republicans were vastly outspent. Zappone and McGarry reported spending more than double their opponents, according to the most recently available campaign finance reports.
The district encompasses rural and urban areas.
Though it skirts the city’s core, the district includes the upper South Hill, Indian Trail and Five Mile neighborhoods. It stretches west, covering the West Plains, Cheney, Medical Lake, and parts of unincorporated Spokane County.
Although both races featured an incumbent Republican fending off a challenge from a well-funded but politically inexperienced Democrat, they took decidedly different tones.
The race between McGarry and Graham revolved around personality, while Zappone and Volz stuck mostly to matters of policy.
McGarry hammered home his slogan as a “serious candidate for serious times,” aiming to portray Graham as a leader who ignores science during a deadly pandemic.
The two never participated in a public debate.
Graham largely ignored her opponent, instead taking to Facebook to accuse journalists of downplaying the seriousness of human trafficking, a real issue that has become increasingly politicized in the era of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory. A threatening voicemail she left for an Inlander reporter drew national media attention.
McGarry frequently pointed to Graham’s comments on the coronavirus, saying he would take a different approach by following the leadership of public health officials and experts.
On Tuesday, Graham told KREM that having COVID-19 gave her a “bit better of an understanding” of the disease. She described her symptoms as those of a “bad cold” or “bad flu.”
“Before I went through this, I didn’t really know what someone would go through with COVID,” she said.
Graham had expressed concern about the safety of a rushed coronavirus vaccine, including by sharing a post on Facebook that the social media company flagged as untrue.
Volz and Zappone sparred largely over the incumbent’s voting record and the policies his challenger would support if elected.
Zappone criticized Volz’s vote on several bills during his two-term tenure in office, including ones that banned conversion therapy for LBGTQ people and created the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Program.
Volz countered that Zappone’s priorities would lead to tax increases for District 6 residents, and that the state has already increased spending too dramatically in recent years.
In her narrow 2018 victory, Graham gained votes as additional ballots were counted.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State and Republican Kim Wyman continued to hold a lead over her Democratic challenger, State Rep. Gael Tarleton, earning 52.4% of the vote compared to 47.5% for Tarleton.