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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."

Democrats (And Two Republicans) Ahead In Washington State

Parker Miles Blohm
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee held a large lead over Republican challenger Bill Bryant as of midnight.

If the presidential race was a stunner, Washington state’s elections were not. Gov. Jay Inslee cruised to re-election as expected. And there were no upsets further down the ballot either.

Democrats may have been crying in their beer over Donald Trump’s victory. But they found reason to cheer as Inslee took the stage at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle.

Inslee said by re-electing him, Washington voters had chosen “a confident and optimistic vision for the state.” But he acknowledged the mood in the room.

“Now I know that in the uncertainty of the national race, it’s hard to see that at the moment,” Inslee said.

Inslee went on to tout the passage of an initiative to raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave to workers. As well as initiative to allow judges to confiscate the guns of individuals found to pose an extreme risk to themselves or others.

“Washington was, is and will always be a beacon for progressive values across the United States of America,” Inslee said.

Across Lake Washington in Bellevue, Inslee’s Republican challenger Bill Bryant acknowledged his steep deficit.

“Let me tell you, we are not exactly where we wanted to be at this moment,” he said.

But he wasn’t ready to concede, saying “let’s see what the sunrise brings.”

“We have well over a million votes that are still coming in and we believe that well over two-thirds of those are from outside King County,” Bryant said.

King County is the most populous county in the state and votes heavily Democratic.

Moving down the ballot, Democrats running for statewide office mostly enjoyed comfortable leads. State Senator Cyrus Habib running for lieutenant governor is poised to become the first Iranian-American statewide elected official in the country. He’s also blind from a childhood cancer. Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy was leading Republican state Senator Mark Miloscia in the race to replace embattled state auditor Troy Kelley. And Democrat Hilary Franz had a comfortable lead in the open race for state lands commissioner.

But it wasn’t only a night for Democrats.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Washington’s lone Republican statewide officeholder, faced an aggressive challenge from former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski. But Wyman was up six points after the first count.

“You know the voters listened and they came through and I’m just really humbled and I thank everybody in this room for your support because we got through this together,” she said. “So thank you.”

If Wyman’s lead holds, Washington will soon have two Republican statewide officeholders. That’s because of the race for state treasurer where both candidates are Republicans -- a quirk of the state’s top-two primary. Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson was leading first-time candidate Michael Waite by double digits. Washington hasn’t had a Republican state treasurer in 60 years.

One race that’s still too close to call is the non-partisan contest for state schools superintendent. In the first count, Democratic state Rep. Chris Reykdal held a narrow lead over former assistant state superintendent Erin Jones.

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."