Looking past a sleepy summer primary, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant were pushing toward a fall matchup Tuesday with competing takes on how voters should judge them.
Looking past a sleepy summer primary, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant on Tuesday were already pressing ahead to a fall matchup with competing takes on how voters should judge them.
In Tuesday’s vote count, Inslee led with 49 percent of the statewide vote. Bryant was second at 38 percent. Both will advance to the November election, an outcome never in doubt with nine lesser-known candidates on the primary ballot.
Inslee ran strong in Western Washington, and especially King County, where he was grabbing 63 percent as of Tuesday. Bryant’s 28 percent mark in the county was lower than those of the previous two GOP candidates for governor — a deficit he’ll need to close to end the party’s three-decade losing streak in gubernatorial races.
Bryant led in 25 of the state’s 39 counties, including all of Eastern Washington, though he and Inslee were virtually tied in Spokane County.
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Heading into the fall, Inslee and his allies want voters to zoom out and view the governor’s race as part of the larger national election, tying Bryant to his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Bryant calls that a distraction, urging voters to focus their lenses on state issues only — framing Inslee’s first term as a management failure that has left “a lot of wreckage in his wake.”
While touting his record on climate, jobs and education, Inslee spent half a news conference Tuesday slamming Bryant’s repeated refusal to repudiate Trump for “loathsome” comments — most recently the GOP nominee’s attacks on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.
“I am calling on my opponent, Bill Bryant, to stand up today, show a bit of spine, stop hiding under a rock and disavow Donald Trump,” Inslee said.
But Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner, said in an interview Inslee is just trying to divert attention from a stream of highly publicized problems in state government.
He cited the early release of state prisoners due to errors at the Department of Corrections, a tumultuous rollout of tolling on Interstate 405, and the repeated failures of management at Western State Hospital — which have drawn threats of federal funding cuts.
“He knows on every one of those issues he has a record of failure,” said Bryant, who spent the primary-election night in Spokane. “He would rather focus everyone on the shiny object offstage.”
Bryant on Tuesday again refused to comment whether he supports Trump or offer any opinion on the GOP nominee’s widely criticized lashing of the Khan family. “I’m not going there,” he said. “I’m not going to play into [Inslee’s] playbook at all.”
Bryant said he recently ended a statewide campaign tour in which voters asked him about taxes and schools, not Trump.
He said the election should focus on tasks that will land on the governor’s desk in 2017 — such as finding a resolution to a state Supreme Court ruling and contempt order declaring the state was failing to adequately fund public schools.
Distraction or not, Inslee seems certain to keep up the Trump talk.
He noted that other prominent Republicans in the state, including former Attorney General Rob McKenna, former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Dan Evans, have made it clear they do not support Trump.
“Bill Bryant has put his party ahead of his country,” Inslee said.
Inslee, the former Bainbridge Island congressman elected governor in 2012, also defended his own record, saying the state has added jobs, made substantial progress on school funding and passed the largest-ever transportation package.
The election was marked by low turnout — just 24 percent of registered voters had returned ballots by Tuesday evening, according to Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office.
Wyman’s office was predicting about a 40 percent turnout once all the votes are counted. Counting the all-mail election ballots will continue throughout the week.