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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

In A First, Two Republicans May Advance In Washington Treasurer Race

Washington secretary of state's office
For the first time, it appears Washington voters could choose between two candidates from the same party for a statewide office--treasurer.

In a political year that's favored outsiders, two incumbent Democrats posted healthy showings over their Republican challengers in Washington's Tuesday primary.

In early returns, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray had 53 percent of the vote to Republican Chris Vance's 28 percent—a 25 point lead. Vance is a former state lawmaker and former chair of the state Republican party. Murray, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, is seeking her fifth term.

In an emailed statement, Vance noted there were 17 candidates in his contest and said his only objective in the primary was to finish in the top two.

"I know that there are many voters in Washington State who want change, but have been reluctant to vote for a Republican," Vance wrote. "To those voters, I ask you to approach the next three months with an open mind."

Murray also issued a statement in which she thanked voters and said she would be "working hard over the next three months" to win re-election.

Gov. Jay Inslee had 49 percent of the early vote in his contest with Republican Bill Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner who garnered 38 percent.

"I'm honored to have the support of so many Washingtonians tonight," Inslee said in a statement. Bryant noted that when his primary vote count was combined with the other Republicans in the race it closed the gap with Inslee to under 10 points. He also noted that Inslee was polling under 50 percent.

"Whenever an incumbent receives less than 50 percent, that is a vote of no confidence," Bryant said in a statement.

The situation was much different for incumbent Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Early primary returns showed her neck and neck with her Democratic challenger, former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski who garnered 46 percent of the vote to Wyman's 48 percent.

Top two Republicans?

For the first time, it appears Washington voters could choose between two candidates from the same party for a statewide office. Early returns in the primary race for state treasurer had two Republicans, Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson and Michael Waite, who works for a real estate investment firm, holding the top two positions after primary voters split their votes among three Democratic candidates. Under Washington's primary rules, the top two vote-getters in each race advance to the general election.

Lieutenant governor

In the crowded race to replace longtime Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who's retiring, Republican Marty McClendon, a realtor, led with 20 percent of the vote. Democratic state Sen. Cyrus Habib held the second place spot ahead of two other Democratic state Senators, Karen Fraser and Steve Hobbs.

State auditor

With embattled State Auditor Troy Kelley not running for re-election, Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia was the leading vote-getter in the race to replace Kelley earning 37 percent of the vote. The second place spot went to Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, a Democrat.

Commissioner of public lands

Seven candidates jumped into the race to replace two-term Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark who's also not running again. Early returns put Republican Steve McLaughin, a retired Navy commander, in the top slot with Democrat Hilary Franz, executive director of the environmental non-profit Futurewise, beating out fellow Democrats King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove and former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner to place second.

Superintendent of public instruction

Nine candidates jumped into the race for superintendent of public instruction after incumbent Randy Dorn announced he wasn't running again. Based on early primary results, former Assistant State Superintendent Erin Jones and Democratic state Rep. Chris Reykdal held the top two positions for the nonpartisan race.

Five of Washington's nine statewide offices are open seats this year, meaning the incumbent isn't running for re-election. This packed a crowded ballot that may have turned off some voters. Turnout for the vote-by-mail election was lackluster with just 24 percent of the 4.1 million ballots returned as of Tuesday. Past turnout for primary elections have averaged about 40 percent.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."