washington elections

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In a year that seems all about the presidential election, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening down the ballot. In Washington, all nine statewide elected positions are up this year. But some of the fiercest action, and biggest spending, is happening in state legislative races.

For context, Democrats currently hold strong majorities in both the Washington House (57 to 41) and Senate (28 to 21 -- the 21st is a Democrat who votes with Republicans).

From Clark County to Whatcom County, from Puyallup to the heart of Seattle, only a handful of the 124 legislative contests are fiercely competitive. Some feature one Republican and one Democrat. Others are intra-party contests.

We aren’t going to get to them all. Instead, here’s a quick guide to six of the hottest statehouse contests across the state.

Note: the campaign finance numbers below were current as of October 22. For the latest numbers click here and sort by money raised or spent. 

Credit: Kim Wyman and Gael Tarleton campaigns

For more than half a century, Republicans have had a lock on Washington’s Secretary of State’s office. This year, Democrats hope to end that five decade run by unseating incumbent Kim Wyman who’s seeking a third term.

Democrats feel they have the political winds at their back and an unusually strong challenger in Gael Tarleton, a state lawmaker and former Port of Seattle commissioner who once worked as a defense intelligence analyst for the Pentagon.

Republicans, meanwhile, are counting on a long history of ticket-splitting by Washington voters who might repudiate President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, but be willing to support a veteran elections official and familiar state Republican further down the ballot.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Last May, opponents of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay home order staged a “Hazardous Liberty” rally on the campus of the Washington Capitol. Guns outnumbered masks as speaker after speaker – mostly Republican officeholders and candidates – decried Inslee’s response to the pandemic as monarchical and an assault on individual freedom.

The sign–and-flag-waving crowd cheered the speakers as they lambasted Inslee. But one speaker in particular seemed to have attained a kind of celebrity status among many in the crowd.   

“I think you know who’s coming, doncha,” boomed the emcee. “No introduction needed: Sheriff Loren Culp.”

Courtesy Washington Secretary of State's Office

Washington’s typically sleepy August primary will test the endurance of voters as they navigate a larger-than-usual crop of candidates. The robust turnout of would-be officeholders may be, at least partially, the result of the state making it easier to qualify for the ballot in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Army

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has generally earned praise for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But a recent decision has prompted tough words from a fellow Democrat.

Mason County Auditor Paddy McGuire is preparing to hold a special election later this month for fire and school district levies.

Beginning 18 days before the election, Washington law requires that he offer in-person voter registration.

But because of COVID-19, McGuire said the county has closed his building and he doesn’t think in-person registration is a safe idea. So, he asked the governor’s office to use its emergency powers to waive the requirement for this election. The answer back, he said, was “no.”

Washington Secretary of State's Office

County election officials in Washington are warning that a new statewide voter registration database system is not ready for the state's August 6 primary and could result in some voters getting incorrect ballots or no ballot at all.

Seattle University School of Law

The past eight months have been a whirlwind of victories for Tarra Simmons—an honors law school graduate with a criminal past.

WSDOT - tinyurl.com/yddspl8b

This week is the deadline for initiative backers in Washington and Oregon to submit their petitions to the Secretary of State’s office.

Cacophony / Wikimedia

Two candidates for the Washington Supreme Court have been disqualified from appearing on the November ballot.

Washington Secretary of State

Amid warnings that Russian hackers may try to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, top election officials in the Northwest say they are taking additional steps to protect voting systems from attack.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law four bills aimed at expanding access to voting. They include a new state Voting Rights Act.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

On the final day of the Washington legislative session last week, lawmakers passed a bill to make it easier to prosecute police for negligent shootings. It was a compromise agreed to by groups on all sides to keep a potentially divisive initiative off the November ballot.

Now professional initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, who wasn't previously involved on this issue, filed a lawsuit Monday that argues the legislature wrongly denied the voters a say.

Washington Department of Licensing

This story has been updated.

A batch of late-arriving ballots is going out to nearly 7,000 Washington voters in advance of next Tuesday’s special election. That’s because of an error in the state’s Motor Voter system that allows people to register to vote when they get a drivers license.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Washington state voters will likely get to weigh in on police use of deadly force. A ballot measure on that subject turned in around 360,000 voter signatures Thursday afternoon. That should be more than enough to qualify for consideration by the Washington Legislature and then probably go to the statewide ballot in 2018.

Washington Public Disclosure Commission

There has been a lot of talk about potential Russian manipulation of the 2016 presidential election. Now there's concern about shadowy online electioneering filtering down to the state and local level. It comes in the aftermath of a high-stakes state Senate race in Western Washington.

Campaign photos

Democrats had the early advantage in the race for control of the Washington state Senate as Democrat Manka Dhingra led Republican Jinyoung Englund by 10 points in a special election on the eastside of Lake Washington.

Campaign photos

Candidates are breaking spending records in a special election that will decide which party controls the Washington Senate.

Republican Jinyoung Englund and Democrat Manka Dhingra are vying to fill an open state Senate seat in Washington’s 45th legislative district which stretches from Kirkland to Duvall.

Neighborhood Centers / Flickr - tinyurl.com/jaldad5

Russian hackers attempted to penetrate Washington and Oregon’s voter registration systems last year. Top elections officials in both states received that confirmation Friday from the Department of Homeland Security.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

The Oregon and Washington Secretaries of State announced Friday that they have referred dozens of cases of double-voting or dead people voting in the last presidential election for possible criminal prosecution.

Phyllis Fletcher / Northwest News Network

For the first time since 1983, there will be no statewide initiatives on the November ballot in Washington state. More than 30 initiatives to the people had been filed in Washington since January.

Friday was the deadline to turn in qualifying signatures.

Campaign photos

A state legislative race in Washington is starting to draw out-of-state money. For one donor from Idaho that’s because the outcome could determine west coast climate policy.

Washington Secretary of State's Office

No matter how frustrated you might be with any given election, don’t batter the ballot drop boxes in Washington state. Lawmakers in both chambers of the legislature passed bills Wednesday with hopes of protecting the boxes many voters use to submit their ballots.

Washington Secretary of State

Washington voters gave an overwhelming thumbs down Tuesday to a citizen initiative to impose a direct tax on carbon emissions. But that doesn't look to be the end of the story on regulating global warming pollution at the state level.

Washington Secretary of State

If there was a “Trump effect” in Washington state, it showed up in four mostly rural western Washington counties. Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Cowlitz counties went for President Obama in 2012. But Donald Trump managed to flip them.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Wednesday many people who were “with” Hillary Clinton are talking in hushed conversations over cube walls and giving each other hugs. Some had trouble keeping their focus, like one college senior in Richland, Washington. The 23-year-old is a U.S. citizen, born in eastern Oregon. But says she grew up in fear of her mother being deported because she is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network

At the Trump victory party in Spokane Valley, Washington, Republicans said they were looking for a candidate who could bring jobs to eastern Washington and the rest of the nation, who had family values they can support, and who can protect America’s borders.

Luke Brummer / KNKX

Washington state voters said "yes" to a higher minimum wage, said "no" to what would have been a history-making state carbon tax and rendered a split decision on several campaign finance reform ideas in Tuesday's general election.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

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.

Deborah Wang / KUOW

Washington Governor Jay Inslee was cruising to re-election Tuesday night with 56 percent of the vote over Republican challenger Bill Bryant. But several other statewide races were still too close to call, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

First they called for her resignation. Now the Republican leaders of the Washington House and Senate are calling for the suspension of the director of the state’s campaign finance watchdog.

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