After sitting out the 2012 gubernatorial race, the League of Education Voters has endorsed Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election campaign, along with 19 Democrats and 19 Republicans in the Legislature. The group tends to favor incumbents.

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The League of Education Voters endorsed Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election bid Friday.

The nonpartisan, education-advocacy group picked Inslee, the Democrat, over Republican challenger Bill Bryant, who also had sought the endorsement.

That was a shift from 2012’s hard-fought gubernatorial race, in which the league declined to endorse either Inslee or his Republican rival, then-Attorney General Rob McKenna, saying neither had a credible schools-funding plan.

As an incumbent, Inslee had a big advantage going into this year’s endorsement interview.

The group’s endorsement process gives greater weight to actions by an elected leader than promises from a candidate, said CEO Chris Korsmo.

Still, “it wasn’t just a slam dunk” for Inslee, Korsmo said. “He actually had to do the work to get to this point.” She said the league board was impressed by Inslee’s presentation on treating education as a continuum from preschool through college.

Korsmo said she has “great respect” for Bryant, too, but that his presentation was not as strong as Inslee’s in terms of seeing education as a whole system.

In a statement, Inslee said he was “thrilled” with the endorsement, adding the League of Education Voters “knows we’ve got to keep working to ensure our children receive the education they need to compete in a rapidly changing global economy that constantly demands new skills.”

Bryant, in an email, spoke of his commitment “to ensuring every kid in Washington state, regardless of where they grow up, has an equal chance to get an excellent education, and as governor, I look forward to working alongside LEV to make that a reality.”

The league’s pattern of backing incumbents is well established. The group refused to endorse in 2004’s open-seat gubernatorial race, but blessed Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire when she ran for re-election four years later.

Inslee and state lawmakers have agreed to pump billions of additional dollars into K-12 schools to address the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, which found the state was not living up to its constitutional duties on schools funding.

Nevertheless, the state remains under a contempt citation and a $100,000-a-day fine from the court. Legislators have promised to complete their McCleary work in the 2017 session.

The league also issued endorsements Friday in legislative races, backing 19 Democrats and 19 Republicans — overwhelmingly incumbents.

The League of Education Voters, founded in 2001, has worked to increase public school funding, supported charter schools and advocated for issues such as changes in school discipline and raising graduation requirements.