No matter how popular, a governor asking to be re-elected to a nearly unprecedented third term should be tested in a real competition with a worthy opponent. Democracy is best served when that happens.

Democrat Jay Inslee is on track to become the only Washington governor, other than Republican Dan Evans, to get 12 years in office. Inslee’s path would not look so easy if he were facing a GOP nominee who could smartly critique his performance or hit him effectively on issues such as the costly internet scam that stole millions of dollars from the state’s Employment Security program. Instead, the governor has drawn a challenger who is obsessed with guns and face masks.

Loren Culp is the police chief in the small northeast Washington town of Republic. He won his party’s nomination based largely on the notoriety he gained from his refusal to enforce a voter-approved ban on the sale of assault rifles to persons under the age of 21. He extended his popularity by opposing state requirements for wearing face masks in public settings to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

This has made Culp a hero to ardent gun enthusiasts and those who think mask-wearing is a surrender to tyranny. In blue state Washington, those folks are a noisy but distinct minority. Culp is not going to win, and Inslee is going to coast to a third term without anyone giving him the challenge he needs and deserves.

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