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MyNorthwest 2020 Voters Guide

A ballot drop box near Gas Works Park in Seattle. (MyNorthwest photo)

Sure you have the voter’s pamphlet, but do you have all of the background stories on the 2020 candidates? Check back for more information as we add more stories.

Washington State Governor

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Jay Inslee – Jay Inslee was first elected governor in 2012, when he edged out former state Attorney General Rob McKenna 51% to 48%. He won reelection in 2016 over Republican challenger Bill Bryant by a 54% to 45% margin.

The governor ran for President of the United States in 2019. He suspended his campaign in August 2019 after about five months of campaigning.

Inslee has been both praised and criticized for his handling of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say his lockdown and then reopening plan wasn’t fair to businesses. Others credit his plan to keeping cases and the death toll in Washington state relatively low.

Read more about Jay Inslee:
Joe Biden endorses Jay Inslee for Washington governor

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Loren Culp – Loren Culp first made national headlines in 2018, when he became the first law enforcement leader in the state to announce that he would not enforce new gun laws laid out in Initiative 1639. That marked the beginning of a journey that inspired him to enter the political realm, after 10 years with the Republic Police Department.

“I’m ready for it,” Culp told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “I don’t back down. I love a good challenge, and I have the rule of law, the Constitution, and law and order to bring back to this state. I look forward to the fight.”

Read more about Culp:
Washington is not a business friendly state
‘Spineless politicians’ giving in to defund police movement
Loren Culp gears up for fight against Jay Inslee

Lieutenant Governor

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Denny Heck – Denny Heck is a Democrat who most recently represented Washington’s 10th Congressional District. Heck represented the 10th District since 2013. Before that, Heck served in the state House of Representatives from 1976 to 1986.

The race for Lieutenant Governor opened when incumbent, Cyrus Habib, announced he would not run for reelection to join the Society of Jesus religious order.

“Frankly, President Trump being the chief law enforcement officer concerns me deeply … I think he’s manifestly unfit to occupy the White House,” Heck said  in January 2019, about two months before the Mueller Report was delivered to Attorney General William Barr.

Heck announced his retirement from Congress in December 2019, citing long hours working on potential election interference by Russia.

“The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,” Heck said.

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Marko Liias – Marko Liias, a Democrat, has been a state senator since election in 2014. According to Ballotpedia, Liias served in the state House of Representatives, representing District 21-Position 2 since 2008. Before that, Liias lost in the 2016 primary election in a race for state treasurer. Liias also served on the Mukilteo City Council.

Liias introduced legislation to suspect Boeing tax breaks while it was in a dispute with the World Trade Organization over tariffs. He also introduced a bill to require restaurants to default to healthier drink options for children, such as water or unflavored milk. Liias also co-sponsored a bill that would allow community colleges to more high school diplomas if they complete associates degrees.

“As the son of immigrants, my parents taught me that education was the path to a better life,” Liias told the Mukilteo Beacon. “Enabling more students to earn high school and college credit at the same time is a common sense way of putting people first and creating more pathways to opportunity for all students.”

Read more about Marko Liias:
State lawmakers push to suspend Boeing tax breaks
Democrats introduce bill to strengthen automatic voter registration
Car tab relief debate heating up in Legislature
Traffic camera expansion in Seattle back on the table

Attorney General

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Bob Ferguson – Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) has served as the state’s attorney general for eight years, after starting his legal career in Spokane serving as a law clerk for two federal judges and then as an attorney, according to his statement in the voters’ guide.

Ferguson said he’s running for reelection with two key focuses:

“Number one, to continue to running an independent law firm on behalf of people in the state of Washington. And number two, to continue the focus I’ve brought to the office on the work we do directly on behalf of the people as the people’s law firm,” he said.

Ferugson says he set the tone on day one by keeping everyone in office after he took over from former attorney general Rob McKenna. The political party preferences of the staff, he says, did not concern him, and he knew they had a reputation for running an independent law firm, which is why he kept them on and many of them are still there.

Read more about Bob Ferguson:
WA attorney general candidates clash in debate over job history, state’s future
Ferguson won’t drop USPS lawsuit despite Postmaster General halting changes
Ferguson warns battle over DACA may not be over
King County judge rules against effort to recall state AG Bob Ferguson

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Matt Larkin – Matt Larkin (R) writes that he is “not a career politician,” which he says allows him to “bring a fresh perspective” to the office. He is a veteran attorney licensed to practice law in Washington and Oregon.

“I’m running because, like a lot of people in this state, I’m frustrated,” Larkin said in the virtual debate. “I got into this race because I just feel like I don’t recognize this state anymore.”

Larkin says he has four young kids and wants them to grow up in a state that’s “heading in the right direction.”

He cites a concerning increase in crime statewide, adding that as attorney general, he would want to drive those numbers down and put an emphasis on criminal law.

“I want my kids to be as proud of this state as I am, because I am proud of this state,” he said.

While admitting that these are big challenges and there’s a lot of work to do, he thinks the attorney general’s office can refocus and work to make the state a better place.

Read more about Matt Larkin:
AG candidate Matt Larkin on legality of coronavirus actions by Inslee
Bob Ferguson, Matt Larkin leading in race for Washington Attorney General
AG candidate tired of Ferguson’s focus on the wrong Washington
AG candidate Larkin would redirect resources to help law enforcement

Secretary of State

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Kim Wyman – Secretary of State Kim Wyman has been serving in that role since 2013. Most recently, she has been defending Washington state’s vote-by-mail system as secure. She said in her statement that voter confidence in the state’s election is her top priority.

The vote-by-mail option first became law in Washington state in 2005. Under Wyman’s guidance, the system has been expanded to include fully paid postage, a wide network of ballot drop boxes, and more stringent security measures.

The state has also seen historic increases in voter turnout over that period, while ensuring the state has a system uniquely prepared to function amid a pandemic.

Read more about Kim Wyman:
Kim Wyman talks voter expansion, election hacking
Washington state leads charge to get US to vote by mail in November
Sec. of State Wyman won’t participate in primary because of not-so-private ballots

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Gael Tarleton – Democratic state representative Gael Tarleton of the 36th Legislative District says she’s running for Secretary of State because voting rights in Washington state are under attack — since 2016.

“As a former senior defense intelligence analyst, I take it seriously when you have both attacks happening — one from the outside, one from the inside,” Tarleton told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio. “You better take it seriously,” she added. “Don’t ever take it for granted that we will always have our democracy here.”

Read more about Gael Tarleton:
WA Sec of State candidate Tarleton: ‘Our voting rights are under attack’

Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Chris Reykdal – Incumbent Superintendent Chris Reykdal garnered just over 40% of the vote in August’s Primary, followed by Maia Espinoza at 25%. With 35% of the vote up for grabs, both candidates stated their case Thursday.

For Reykdal, much of the focus was on improvements Washington has made to its education infrastructure in recent years, as well as strides it’s made in managing the ongoing COVID crisis under his direction.

Read more about Chris Reykdal:
Why decision for in-person classes was left up to school boards
Superintendent Reykdal says opponent’s statements about sex ed are ‘untrue’
Chris Reykdal, Maia Espinoza square off in debate as superintendent race heats up

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Maia Espinoza – With Washington parents attempting to navigate virtual learning, an idea for partial tax refunds has been floated since taxpayers are paying a premium price for education and not getting it, as many school resources are shuttered. Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Maia Espinoza is pushing for this in her race with Chris Reykdal.

“These ‘back to school’ plans are really just an assault on working families and, frankly, single parents,” she told the Dori Monson Show. “There is no plan to reopen that’s made clear for schools, and we’ve seen that the result is a majority of school districts opting to go online. So people are asking themselves, ‘then what are we paying for?’ We’re seeing record rates of people pulling their kids out of public school to home-school them.”

Read more about Maia Espinoza:
Education dollars ‘belong to students, not the system’
Sex ed bill inspired activist Maia Espinoza to run for superintendent
Superintendent candidate says sex ed bill was ‘the tipping point’ for her campaign

Commissioner of Public Lands

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Hilary Franz – Hilary Franz was elected Commissioner of Public Lands in 2016. She oversees the Department of Natural Resources, which includes  about 6 million acres for forestland. Franz said she’s faced the challenge of  managing millions of acres of unhealthy forests. While critics say her department should be thinning forests, Franz is touting a 20-year plan to restore 1.5 million acres of forests in Washington state.

“It’s not just one year; it’s year after year – and the time to take action at the pace and scale of wildfire is here, right now,” Franz told KIRO 7 TV. “We can and must make proactive investments now to strengthen our wildfire response and restore the health of our forests so that this doesn’t happen again. We must invest in our communities ripped apart by fire and help rebuild them with understanding, care, and resources.”

Read more about Hilary Franz:
Gov. Inslee: Recent fires in Washington are ‘not natural,’ ‘not an act of God’
Wildfires burn through 330,000 acres in Washington in 24 hours
An unexpected casualty in Washington state from Trump trade war with China
‘More significant’ wildfires, smoke expected in Washington this summer

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Sue Kuehl Pederson – “I grew up in a salmon hatchery in southern Washington on the Columbia River, and I’ve never seen fires like we’ve had in the past five, six years. That’s actually the reason I entered this race,” Sue Kuehl Pederson told KTTH’s Jason Rantz.

Sue Kuehl Pederson ran for Washington State Senate District 19 in 2016 as an Independent Republican. She lost to incumbent Dean Takko (45% to 55%).

Read more about Sue Kuehl Pederson:
WA Commissioner of Public Lands candidate: Never seen fires like past few years

Referendum 90

By the Associated Press

Democrats in the Washington state Legislature thought they had passed a routine sex education requirement for public schools earlier this year. But a coalition of Republicans and religious conservatives launched a swift, historic backlash that’s led to a bitter partisan fight and an effort to overturn the measure on the November ballot.

Democrats say they want to protect young people from sexual abuse, diseases and infections. But Republicans have taken issue with the content of the standards. The resulting referendum on the November ballot marks the first time in the country that such a decision on sex ed will be decided by voters.

Under the wide-ranging bill, kindergarteners would be taught how to manage feelings and make friends, while older kids will learn about consent and how to respond to violence. The curriculum must also address issues faced by LGBTQ students.

At least 29 states plus Washington, D.C., require public schools to teach sex education, but the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Education Commission of the States — two organizations that track policy trends — said it has never appeared on a statewide ballot. Instead, the curriculum has been debated at school boards and statehouses.

Read more about R-90:
Family health physician: WA sex-ed curriculum ‘will help keep all students safe’

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