Democrat Denny Heck was victorious Tuesday in the race for Washington state lieutenant governor.
Heck, a Democratic U.S. congressman, had 47% of the initial vote count. Marko Liias, a Democratic state senator, had 33%. The write-in vote was a surprising 19%. Joshua Freed, former Bothell mayor and a developer, ran as a write-in candidate with a platform that said he was “against raising taxes” and helping “those afflicted by drug addiction.”
A few counties had not yet reported, and hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted in the coming days, but Heck holds an insurmountable lead and his campaign declared victory Tuesday night.
Heck, who was born in Washington, began his career in state politics in 1976, winning election to the Washington House of Representatives, where he served for nearly a decade. He served as Gov. Booth Gardner’s chief of staff from 1990 to 1993, later founded the state’s public-affairs network, TVW, and also started a digital learning company. He was elected to Congress in 2012, but he announced his intent to retire last year, citing the degradation of civil discourse.
Liias, a lifelong Washingtonian, started his career in politics at 24, when he was elected to the Mukilteo City Council. He was appointed to an open seat in the state House in 2008 and has served in the state Legislature ever since, most recently as the Senate’s majority floor leader.
Tuesday night, he issued a statement that said, “I ran because I believe we need bold, transformational change and no matter the outcome, I’m committed to fighting for a better future for our state.”
The lieutenant governor acts as governor when the governor is out of state, leaves the job or is otherwise unable to serve. The lieutenant governor also presides over the state Senate.
Heck pitched voters on his deep experience in government.
The lieutenant governor settles procedural disputes in the Senate, breaks voting ties and chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which is powerful because it can kill any bill.
Liias, meanwhile, pitched voters on the role of lieutenant governor as a more expansive platform for policy change, including tax reform and universal health care.
In addition to duties in the Senate, the lieutenant governor serves on many boards and committees, including one that raises funds for historic furniture at the state Capitol, one that sets strategy for state investments and several dealing with economic development.
Both Heck and Liias have said they would not seek to retain the governorship in a special election if Inslee were to win the governor’s race but leave office next year.
Heck did outraise Liias in campaign fundraising, drawing more than $1.1 million for his campaign. Liias received more than $310,000 in campaign donations.
Heck said on Tuesday that he’s been asked “1,000 times” about taking over the governor’s position if Biden wins and Inslee is asked to come to Washington, D.C., to serve in a Biden cabinet.
Being governor, he said, “wasn’t the job I wanted. But should it happen, I’ll embrace. Frankly, I’m ready, having been chief of staff for (Gov.) Booth Gardner.”