Top-two primary narrows candidates for governor, other races

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The governor’s race in November is set, and Democrats appear to be the top two candidates in both the lieutenant governor’s race and the 10th Congressional District following Washington’s top-two primary.

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Tuesday night, incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who is seeking to become the first incumbent elected to a third term in the state in more than 40 years, advanced to the general election with 52% of the vote. With nearly 17% of the vote, Republican Loren Culp, the police chief of the small city of Republic, captured the largest share among 35 other candidates.

Inslee briefly ran for his party’s Democratic presidential nomination last year and has been a frequent and high-profile critic of President Donald Trump.

“At such a pivotal moment, Washington state needs the opposite of Trump-style chaos,” Inslee said in a statement.

Culp, who got national attention after saying he wouldn’t enforce gun regulations approved by voters in a 2018 ballot measure, campaigned against Inslee’s coronavirus restrictions like mandatory masks, saying they infringed on people’s constitutional rights.

Culp told The Seattle Times Tuesday night that people were tired of COVID-19 mandates from Inslee.

“They are ready for individual freedom and liberty being returned to this state, where citizens have the choice on what they want to do in their personal lives and business, and not have it dictated to them,” he said.

Culp beat several other Republicans, including Joshua Freed, the former mayor of Bothell, anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman, Yakima doctor Raul Garcia and state Sen. Phil Fortunato.

In the race for lieutenant governor, two Democrats looked likely to advance to the ballot: Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, who had previously announced he was retiring from Congress, captured nearly 28% in early returns, and Democratic Sen. Marko Liias had just under 17%. Republicans Ann Davison Sattler and Marty McClendon were under 12%.

Heck and Liias hope to succeed current Democratic Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, who announced earlier this year that he was leaving to become a Jesuit priest.

It's not the first time two candidates from the same party emerged from the top-two primary — in which the top two vote-getters advance to the November ballot, regardless of party — for a statewide elected position. In 2016, two Republicans advanced in the treasurer's race, with Duane Davidson ultimately prevailing.

Davidson is one of only two Republicans to hold statewide office in the state, and he was trailing his Democratic challenger in the primary. Davidson and state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti were the only two candidates on the primary ballot and automatically advanced to the general election, with Pellicciotti having captured 54% in early returns.

Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman is also expected to face a competitive election in the fall. Wyman and Democratic state Rep. Gael Tarleton both advanced to the November ballot, with Wyman at just over 50% and Tarleton with just under 45%.

Voters also weighed in on five other statewide elected offices, with all of the Democratic incumbents advancing to the November ballot with healthy margins against Republican challengers: state Auditor Pat McCarthy will face Chris Leyba, Attorney General Bob Ferguson will face Matt Larkin, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz will face Sue Kuehl Pederson, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal looked likely to face Maia Espinoza, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will face Chirayu Avinash Patel.

With Heck’s retirement from Congress, the open seat in the 10th Congressional District, which includes the state capital of Olympia, drew 19 candidates. Former Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland advanced to the November ballot with 21.5% of the vote, while Democratic state lawmaker Beth Doglio and former state lawmaker Kristine Reeves were vying for the second spot. Doglio had 14.5% of the vote as of Wednesday night, while Reeves had about 13%.

All 10 of the state’s U.S. House seats are on the ballot, but Heck’s seat is the only one without an incumbent seeking another two-year term. Democrats currently hold seven of the seats, and Republicans hold three.

All 98 state House seats and 26 of the Senate’s 49 seats were also on the primary ballot. Democrats hold a 28-21 majority in the Senate and a 57-41 edge in the House.

The next batch of results will be posted by counties Thursday afternoon.