Key races to watch in Washington state, as Dems and GOP vie for control

Nov 3, 2020, 12:03 PM | Updated: 7:22 pm
Jay Inslee, Loren Culp, debate...
Photo credits: Associated Press (left), Culp for Governor, Facebook (right)

The race for the presidency is the big draw for many this Election Day, but there is much more on the Washington state ballot, including a handful of contests that could have wide-ranging implications depending on how things play out.

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All of the state’s Congressional seats are up for re-election in 2020, and most incumbents are locked in. A few, though, are too competitive to know at this point, including the rematch between Democratic challenger Carolyn Long and longtime Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler in southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.

Herrera Beutler won the last matchup in 2016 by more than 5 percentage points, but internal Democratic Party polling this time has Long in a statistical tie with the congresswoman late in the campaign. Long criticized Herrera Beutler for saying she’d vote for President Donald Trump this year, even though she declined to vote for him in 2016.

The race has been focused on policy differences that mirrored those between Republicans and Democrats nationally, over health care, climate change, taxes, and police reform, among others. The southwest Washington district formerly leaned Democratic, but voted for Trump in 2016.

Democrats in the 8th Congressional District, which stretches from Seattle’s eastern and southern suburbs to central Washington, are to retain the seat they took in 2018 with Kim Schrier, becoming the first Democrat to do so in that district. Her challenger, Jesse Jensen, is an Army veteran who campaigned on agricultural industry and law justice priorities, and paints Schrier – who supports Medicare for All and other progressive priorities – as too liberal for the district, which is split right down the middle.

It’s Democrat against Democrat in the 10th Congressional District, as former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland faces off with State Rep. Beth Doglio for the seat vacated by Denny Heck, who is running for lieutenant governor. There is a ton of money coming into this race from business-backed PACS for the more moderate and business-friendly Strickland, with progressive PACS throwing their support behind Doglio.

On the statewide ballot, Governor Jay Inslee is seeking his third term, and would become the first to do so since Dan Evans if he succeeds in defeating Republican Loren Culp. The police chief from Ferry County in Eastern Washington has been critical of the governor and his handling of the pandemic, specifically the mask mandate and late-spring’s stay-at-home order.

Culp has said if he were elected, he would simply inform the people of best practices to stay healthy, ensure there was plenty of PPE, and let them make their own decision. In the one debate the two did have, Inslee pointed to the science saving lives, labeling Culp as a “Trumpist.”

The race for lieutenant governor also pits Democrat against Democrat, as outgoing Congressman Denny Heck and state Senate floor leader Marko Liias vie for the seat vacated by Cyrus Habib, who moved on to become a Jesuit priest. Heck and Liias agree on many of the issues, mostly battling over who has the better experience to preside over the senate, break ties if needed, and potentially serve as governor should the incumbent be unavailable, as some continue to suspect will eventually be the case with Inslee should he be offered an appointment in a potential Biden administration.

While no Republicans came through the top two primary race, you still have a Republican option for Lt. Governor. Former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed is running as a write in candidate for Lt. Governor post.

Freed failed to make it through the primary in his bid for governor and told KTTH’s Jason Rantz he believed it was important voters have a choice other than two Democrats, and that the absence of one presented a unique opportunity given his performance in the primary race for governor.

In the race for Washington’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson seeks a third term, facing challenger Matt Larkin. Larkin presents himself as a frustrated Washingtonian who doesn’t recognize his state anymore, amid an ongoing homeless crisis, crimes not being enforced, and worries for his young children. Larkin promises to beef up the criminal division in the AG’s office.

There are clear political lines in this race. Ferguson says his goals are to continue defending the people of Washington. He points to his non-partisan way of running his office, noting that many of his Republican predecessor’s staff remain on the job today. Ferguson also touts the creation of his Civil Rights Division that is top in the nation, along with his work on consumer protection and other protections for people of Washington, and of course a 35-1 record in some 80 law lawsuits his office has filed against the Trump Administration (and counting).

There are only two remaining Republicans in statewide offices in Washington: Kim Wyman as the Secretary of State and Duane Davidson as State Treasurer. Democrats have their sights set on both seats.

Wyman is seeking her third term as the head of election security in Washington, and stays mostly out of the political back and forth. She’s facing Democratic State Rep. Gael Tarleton, who accuses Wyman of not doing enough to counter President Trump’s criticism of vote by mail.

Wyman contends focusing on election security is her priority, not making political statements. Her big focus for another term will be ensuring all of the state’s recent changes, voter registration, and other new policies worked as they were supposed to. Tarleton is focused on building voter participation.

A loss for Wyman would be a giant victory for Democrats, who have been targeting the office for years. A loss for Wyman and Herrera Beutler would signal a significant blue wave.

The second Republican in statewide office is State Treasurer Duane Davidson, who faces Democratic State Rep. Mike Pelliciotti.

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Davidson won the seat in 2016, when Democrats failed to get a candidate out of the top two in the primary for the open seat, ensuring that for the first time since 1957 a Republican would take the state’s chief financial officer post.

Davidson, a former county treasurer and accountant, isn’t shy about sharing how proud he is of the work he’s done over the past four years.

“I developed very many programs that are beneficial to the taxpayers started the financial literacy program fought against the concept about a state bank,” he said during a recent debate.

Pelliciotti does not have an accounting background, but has worked on budgets, and says the more important skill comes from his time working in the Legislature.

Davidson, who has been endorsed by most county treasurers in the state, as well as editorial boards of all the large newspapers, including the Seattle Times, was widely praised earlier this year for structuring a bond sale in a way that saved the state some $50 million.

His financial experience is also seen as beneficial to the office. However, Pelliciotti who finished the primary six points ahead, and has also raised much more money than his Republican opponent. Some of the most recent polling has Pelliciotti and other Democrats looking strong.

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Key races to watch in Washington state, as Dems and GOP vie for control