In his bid for a second term, Gov. Jay Inslee defeated GOP challenger Bill Bryant Tuesday night.
Gov. Jay Inslee rolled to a second term Tuesday, easily dispensing with Republican challenger Bill Bryant.
Inslee led statewide by 56 percent to 44 percent in votes counted Tuesday, on a night when victories for Democrats in the state were overshadowed by national results showing Donald Trump leading in the race for the White House.
Taking the stage in a Seattle Westin Hotel ballroom, Inslee pointed dispirited Democrats to passage of state gun-control and minimum-wage initiatives.
Jay Inslee (D) 56%Bill Bryant (R) 44%
Results as of Tuesday
“Washington voted tonight to stay on the path of progress,” Inslee said. Amid the uncertainty of the presidential race, he said, “Washington was, is and will always be a beacon for progressive values.”
Bryant, speaking to a Republican crowd in Bellevue on Tuesday night, declined to concede, pointing to more than a million votes remaining to be counted. “This is not over yet. We’ll continue to crunch the numbers,” he said.
Following a frequent pattern in Washington politics, Bryant won most of Eastern Washington and other more-rural counties but was overwhelmed by Inslee in the Democratic stronghold of King County, home to nearly a third of the state’s 4.3 million voters. With Inslee winning 70 percent of the King County votes, a Bryant comeback was all but impossible.
Inslee’s victory this year came much easier than his first-term win in 2012, when he narrowly defeated then-Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Washington state voters have not elected a Republican governor since John Spellman beat then-state Sen. Jim McDermott in 1980. That gubernatorial losing streak is the longest in the country for GOP.
Having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket didn’t help Bryant’s bid to end the slide. For months, Bryant dodged questions about whether he supported Trump, even as fellow GOP candidates denounced their nominee. In August, Bryant came out publicly saying he would not support Trump.
Inslee, the former eight-term congressman from Bainbridge Island, was happy to nationalize the governor’s race, sounding at many events like he was running against Trump, whom he condemned as a narcissist and bigot.
But Inslee also forcefully defended his record as governor, pointing to strong job growth, billions in new spending on K-12 schools and passage of a $16 billion transportation package. Inslee also took credit in TV ads for a Republican-led effort to cut tuition at state colleges and universities.
“We are a confident and optimistic state, and we will remain so while I am governor,” Inslee said Tuesday night.
Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner, hit Inslee throughout the race on management issues in state government, including the mistaken early release of prisoners by the Department of Corrections and safety lapses and staffing shortages at Western State Hospital.
Bryant and the state Republican Party also went after Inslee for breaking his 2012 pledge to veto any new taxes in the state by proposing $1 billion in capital-gains and other taxes two years ago.
But Bryant strained at times to settle on a crisp message in the race. He attacked Inslee repeatedly for not finalizing a plan to deal with a state Supreme Court contempt order on education funding — yet offered no detailed plan himself. Bryant also struggled with name recognition and dismal fundraising compared with recent GOP gubernatorial candidates.
Despite breathless Democratic mailers claiming Inslee might be endangered by well-heeled GOP donors, it was Inslee and Democrats who benefited from a deluge of dollars.
Bryant raised about $3.9 million, far short of the $9 million his campaign manager, Justin Matheson, had predicted in June.
Inslee raised close to $10 million and was aided by an additional $825,000 in ads funded by unions, environmentalists and trial lawyers.