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Republic Police Chief Loren Culp emerges to challenge Inslee's run for third term

SPOKANE — One of Washington’s most experienced politicians will square off against a first-time candidate for governor in the November general election.

Loren Culp, the Republic police chief thrust into the political spotlight by his stance against a gun control measure approved by voters, outdistanced a pack of 35 challengers for the right to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

Inslee, a former legislator, congressman and the two-term governor, finished the election night count with nearly twice as many votes as Culp. But in the state’s top two primary, Culp claimed the second spot with more than twice as many votes as the next highest challenger, former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed.

The primary for governor had the longest list of candidates in state history, with 35 challengers trying to unseat Inslee. The list included 15 Republicans of some variation — three listed their party preference as “Trump Republican” and one as what may be the GOP polar opposite, “Pre2016 Republican” — but only five of those challengers mounted credible campaigns and raised the kind of money that would make them viable in a statewide race.

Culp was propelled into the national spotlight in 2018 when he said he would not enforce a new state initiative approved by voters that put new restrictions on the sale of semi-automatic firearms. He got the endorsement of gun-rights groups and campaigned heavily in rural and suburban areas on both sides of the Cascades.

Although he was an unknown before that, he easily bested Tim Eyman, the longtime initiative sponsor, who tried unsuccessfully to move to electoral politics. Eyman, who made a “victory speech” on Facebook Live a few minutes before vote totals started coming in, was in fourth place in Tuesday night’s count.

Freed, the former Bothell mayor who gained attention in the suburban Puget Sound areas by sponsoring an initiative to block the siting of heroin injection facilities, finished second to Inslee in King County, although with only 6.5% of the vote.

Also trailing in the pack of Republican hopefuls were state Sen. Phil Fortunato of Auburn and Raul Garcia, a Yakima emergency room physician and medical clinic operator.

Inslee, 69, is attempting to be only the second governor in state history to be elected to three consecutive terms. The first was Republican Dan Evans, who won his third term in 1972.

His initial campaigning was delayed last year by a brief and ultimately unsuccessful run for president. His gubernatorial campaign has been sidetracked significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced tough choices on Inslee as governor.

Shortly after the Legislature adjourned, he cut some $235 million out of the state’s supplemental budget to prepare for expected drops in tax revenue from a pandemic-driven slowdown. Despite the urging of Republican legislators and criticism from some of his campaign opponents, he has resisted calls for a special legislative session, saying lawmakers have no clear plan to address the budget shortfall and the state has sufficient reserves to get it through until January when the regular session starts.

He issued a series of emergency proclamations, including a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order that divided jobs into essential and nonessential, requiring businesses that provide the latter to close.

In the early months of the pandemic, the hardest hit counties were in the Puget Sound’s urban core, and more rural counties pushed to reopen their economies.

In May, Inslee announced a phased restart of the economy, with four steps to slowly reopen businesses. In the middle of the restart, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths began to climb, and all counties have remained in the phase they were in when he announced a “pause” in the restart in early July.

All of Inslee’s major Republican challengers criticized the breadth of his restrictions and backed faster reopenings for parts of the state not facing high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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Last-minute ballots

Schrier and Jensen ahead in 8th Congressional District race

WASHINGTON — Incumbent Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, and Republican challenger Jesse Jensen were leading the race for Washington’s 8th Congressional District after the first round of results returned Tuesday night.

Schrier had 53,627 votes, or 44.53% of the total count, as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m ready to head to the general election and would be absolutely ready to represent the 8th Congressional District in Washington once again,” Schrier said Tuesday night.

Jensen tallied 21,411 votes, or 17.78%, at 9 p.m., narrowly leading fellow Republican Keith R. Swank, who had 20,813 votes, 17.28% of the total count.

“We’re excited to be narrowly in the lead and we’re hoping that leads extends as the night goes on,” Jensen said Tuesday night.

The next-closest of the eight candidates in the field was Dave Saulibio who garnered 15,800 votes, or 13.12%. Each of the remaining candidates had less than 5% of the vote count.

Those results included votes from portions of Chelan, Douglas, King, Kittitas and Pierce counties. A total of 28,735 votes were cast for that race as of 9 p.m.

The next official vote count will happen Friday.

District 8 covers parts of King and Pierce counties to the west and stretches over to Chelan County in the east. Voting started July 17 for Tuesday’s primary, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election on Nov. 3.

Schrier beat Dino Rossi in 2018 in a race to replace Auburn Republican Dave Reichert, who announced his retirement the year before.

Q&A: Congressional District 8

NCW — Eight contenders are in the running for the District 8 Congressional seat, which has been held by Democrat Kim Schrier since 2019.

Newhouse and McKinley ahead in District 4 primary

NCW — U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse will face Douglas McKinley in the Nov. 3 general election for Washington’s 4th Congressional District.

Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, had received 50,599 votes and about 57% of the vote as of Tuesday night. McKinley, a Democrat from Richland, had 24,599 votes and about 28% of the vote.

Newhouse is seeking a fourth term representing the district, which covers Grant and Okanogan counties and most of Douglas County.

He and McKinley topped four other candidates for the seat: Sarena Sloot, Evan Jones, Ryan Cooper and Tracy Wright.

Newhouse said he is happy with the results and that the numbers look good. “I’ll work as hard as I can to have a similar showing in November,” he said.

The strong showing and support of people from the 4th District is appreciated, he said.

McKinley said it is very tough to overcome a multimillionaire Republican like Newhouse. But “we are going to continue our message of government that works for everyone,” not just wealthy lobbyists and multimillionaires.

Dale England takes decisive lead in race for Chelan County Commission

NCW — Dale England was almost 13 percentage points ahead of his nearest competitor in the race for the Chelan County District 3 seat.

England received 1,898 votes (42.8%) on Election Day. Brandt Cappell and Tiffany Gering are battling for second place with Cappell ahead with 1,299 votes (29.3%) to Gering’s 1,237 votes (27.9%). County election officials have counted 14,463 ballots and have 8,189 ballots left, according to the Chelan County Auditor’s website. Officials will release the next batch of ballots on Friday.

They are competing to replace retiring Commissioner Doug England, who is completing his third term.

England — Doug’s brother — believes his experiences as an orchardist, running a helicopter company and serving in law enforcement make him uniquely qualified as a candidate. He’s spent his entire life in Chelan County and said he is well acquainted with the issues the area faces.

England, 64, faced some controversy as a candidate, including allegations of not submitting his financial statements to the state in a timely manner. There were also questions around his being fired from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office and subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

England said he was pleased with the election results on Tuesday and is looking forward to the general election.

“I think the voters researched the candidates and they’re looking for a candidate that has founded two successful businesses, is involved directly with agriculture, is involved directly with tourism and has volunteered his whole life to support the community,” England said.

Cappell, 34, has served as a legislative assistant for state Reps. Cary Condotta and Keith Goehner. He lives in the Sunnyslope area.

In the primary, Cappell said he wanted to focus on housing issues and increase the amount of developable land. He was also concerned about blanket legislation by the state Legislature that didn’t take into account differences in Eastern Washington lifestyles.

Cappell said he was nervous about his slim lead over Gering, but was looking forward to continuing his campaign into the general election. It has been tough to run a campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have contributed England’s lead.

“I think as we go throughout the county we can talk more about the issues and the things that are important to all of Chelan County,” Cappell said. “I think voters will also see it is not a name versus a name type of thing.”

Gering, chief operating officer for the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, said she ran for office to create a better future for her two daughters. She has been attending county meetings since January to prepare for taking office and is willing to put in the homework for her constituents.

Gering, 40, is particularly concerned with land use issues and mental health. She believes the county should stop using incarceration as a means of handling mental health.

Gering did not respond to a phone call for comment on Tuesday night.

Two Dems to face off for lieutenant governor in November

SPOKANE — A Democrat is almost guaranteed to be Washington’s next lieutenant governor.

Two Democrats, U.S. Rep Denny Heck and state Sen. Marko Liias, finished first and second in the first night of counting in Tuesday’s primary election.

Heck finished first, with Liias 5 percentage points ahead of Republican Ann Davison Sattler as of Tuesday night.

The contest for the state’s No. 2 position opened up after incumbent Cyrus Habib announced he was retiring after one term to study to be a Jesuit priest.

Heck, a 10th District congressman and former gubernatorial chief of staff who helped start the state’s cable government channel TVW, had announced he was retiring from his congressional seat and politics in December. But he decided to enter the race for lieutenant governor in April, saying the state needs experience as it faces a triple threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis and a budget crisis.

Liias, the Democrats’ floor leader in the state Senate, was among the first to announce a campaign, and picked up Habib’s endorsement.

Sattler ran unsuccessfully for a Seattle City Council seat as a Democrat last year, but said she wasn’t in tune with that party’s progressive wing. She filed for the office as a Republican, promising to cut waste and tie expenditures to results.

In Washington’s primary system, the first- and second-place finishers advance to the general election regardless of party.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

In a close race for the superintendent of public instruction, Maia Espinoza and Ron Higgins are fighting to advance to the general election to face incumbent Chris Reykdal.

As of Tuesday night, Espinoza, who has worked on the Center for Latino Leadership and the Commission on Hispanic Affairs, was just 3.8 percentage points ahead of Higgins, a substitute teacher and former engineer.

Espinoza and Higgins both called for more local control of schools and criticized Reykdal for his support of a new comprehensive sex education bill.

Espinoza also worked to get Referendum 90 on the ballot. The measure would repeal the controversial bill requiring comprehensive sexual health education be taught in schools across the state.

Attorney General

Matt Larkin, a Republican, will face Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the November election, in a close race that left Larkin 11 points ahead of third-place candidate Brett Rogers, another Republican, as of Tuesday night.

Ferguson, who is seeking his third term as attorney general, has made a name for himself nationally by challenging the Trump administration on a wide range of policies, including restrictions on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries and changes to the Census.

Larkin, an attorney for his family’s manufacturing business who has worked in the Spokane County and Pierce County prosecutor’s offices, said Ferguson should be more selective about the cases his office files.

He was critical of state legal action to enforce business closures for the pandemic and wants the office to be more “business friendly.”

Secretary of State

In the race for Secretary of State, Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, will take on incumbent Republican Kim Wyman. Wyman was 6 percentage points ahead of Tarleton as of Tuesday night.

Tarleton, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2012, wants to increase cybersecurity of elections and continue to expand voter participation. She has criticized Wyman for her refusal to stand up to President Trump’s persistent attacks against vote-by-mail.

Wyman, who is seeking her third term, has said it is not her job to be partisan regarding elections. She said she wants to continue to inspire confidence in voters in Washington’s vote-by-mail system.

Insurance Commissioner

Republican Chirayu Avinash Patel will face Democrat Mike Kreidler for the insurance commissioner’s seat. Patel was 16 points ahead of Libertarian candidate Anthony Welti as of Tuesday night.

State Auditor

Chris Leyba, a Republican and a police officer, will take on incumbent Pat McCarthy, a Democrat, in the state auditor’s race in November. McCarthy finished 8 percentage points ahead of Leyba on Tuesday night.