Monday, September 14, 2020

Race of the Day- Washington Governor

Washington Governor

50 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

The record books will show that it has been 40 years since a Republican last won the Governorship of Washington. Over the past four election cycles however, Republicans have tried very hard to break through. They have nominated credible candidates who were accomplished in politics or government and who appeared to be moderate enough to win swing voters from the Seattle area to go along with the conservative voters who populate the eastern part of the state. Still, it has not worked. The year of 2004 saw a probable GOP victory disappear after a recount by a margin of just 129 votes. Since then, the percentages of 47, 48, and 46 were as high as the party could muster. This cycle, there seems to be not even a pretext of trying as anyone who fit that model sat the race out. The attempt seems to be to get the voters who identify with Donald Trump and who may not be traditional Republicans and not moderate suburbanites.

Like California, Washington has a jungle primary system. All candidates of all parties appeared on the ballot together in August and the top two, regardless of party advanced. That means that there are no third party choices on the general election ballot. If this were an open seat contest instead of one where an incumbent was seeking reelection, the result could have been that Republicans were shut out of November all together. That happened this year in the primary for the open position of Lt. Governor, although a failed GOP Gubernatorial candidate this cycle is attempting a write-in effort.

If the current Governor had his way, this would be an open seat, although Democrat Jay Inslee seemed prepared to run for a third term even as he mounted a long-shot bid for his party's Presidential nomination. No other major Democrat appeared to take any steps to succeed him. They seemed to realize that Inslee, running on an environmentalist campaign theme in a crowded field would not get very far and decide instead to seek another term. That is what happened and Inslee finished first among 36 candidates on the jungle ballot with just over a majority of the vote. In theory, that sounds like a weak showing for an incumbent, but that does not take into account the votes for little known Democrats and the Greens and the Socialists and all the rest who received small vote shares but who had supporters who are unlikely to support a Republican.

The top Republican finished in second place, above some better known candidates who were active politically statewide previously or those who held offices such as a suburban Mayor or State Senator. As the only other candidate in double digits, at just 17 percent was Loren Culp, an Army veteran and businessman who serves as the Police Chief of the small town of Republic.

This year, Republicans are quick to stress that "blue lives matter" and of course they are correct in that, so Culp might have a positive narrative, especially in the wake of ugly riots and civil unrest in Seattle. Still, he is a niche candidate who is not a good fit statewide. Culp was known for his opposition to gun control measures and his opposition to newly passed state laws. He said he would not enforce these measures in his city and said it would be a "gun sanctuary." It is not hard to see how devoted single issue voters helped catapult him to a spot in the general election.

Of course Culp will get the lion's share of the votes of those who went for the other GOP primary contenders, but even with some breaks, he is unlikely to even get into the mid 40s. Other Republican candidates in the field probably would have fared better against Inslee in November, not that it would have mattered.

Next year, the Governor will have presumably put his Presidential ambitions aside to focus on a third term, and all that comes with it, including the pandemic, wildfires, and crazy anarchists.

Governor races predicted thus far: 
3 D (1 Safe, 2 Likely)
7 R (2 Safe, 3 Likely, 2 Lean)

Total with predictions thus far:

23 Democrats (20 holdovers, 1 Safe, 2 Likely)
26 Republicans (19 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 2 Lean)


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