Washingtonians in the coming weeks will decide between giving Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee a third term or voting for Republican Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic.
Culp, 59, has been critical of measures Inslee has taken during the coronavirus pandemic, and has held rallies across the state as public health officials have said Washingtonians should wear masks, social distance, and limit contact with those outside their household.
Inslee, 69, has defended measures that he’s taken to prevent the spread of the virus, saying that the state’s mask mandate and other orders have saved lives and held up in court.
Inslee’s message seems to be the one resonating with the most voters.
A Strategies 360/KOMO News poll released last month had Inslee at 53 percent and Culp at 37.
A Crosscut/Elway poll in July showed about 45 percent of those who participated planned to vote for Inslee at that time, and just 14 percent planned to vote for Culp.
Travis Ridout, a professor of political science at Washington State University, said recently: “No one really expects that it’s going to be very close at all. Maybe the margin of Inslee’s win will be the interesting part, as opposed to actually who wins the race.”
It might be different during a midterm year, Ridout said.
“Jay Inslee is a strong favorite for reelection,” he said. “I think part of that has to do with just Washington being a very blue, a very Democratic state, and especially in a presidential election year. Donald Trump does not do well in Washington. He is well behind in the polls.”
Inslee got 50.1 percent of votes in the August primary, which had a stunning 36 candidates on the ballot. Culp was second with 17.4 percent.
“I don’t see many people splitting their tickets in a year when everything is so politicized,” Rideout added.
During last week’s gubernatorial debate, Culp, the police chief of a city of about 1,100, argued that the state has a “leadership crisis,” and that “the governor has lost touch with reality.”
He noted his experience serving in the U.S. Army, where he said he trained civilians to be soldiers, and his experience starting a construction business.
Culp argued he’s not against people wearing masks, but said he wants to “let free, individual citizens decide.”
He said if elected he would freeze state spending.
Inslee said at the debate: “Are we going to step up and fight the COVID pandemic, or are we going to belittle it? To ignore it? And in some sense surrender to it? I feel very strongly that we have to stand up, face this, and beat this virus into the ground.”
Some issues he highlighted were the importance of addressing climate change and of protecting health care for the 800,000 people in Washington who get it through the Affordable Care Act, which is being challenged in court by the Trump administration.
State Public Disclosure Commission records showed Inslee has raised more than $7 million and spent more than $3 million on his campaign. Culp had raised $2.2 million and spent $1.1 million.
One of Inslee’s recent endorsements was from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“Governor Jay Inslee is a national leader during the COVID-19 crisis and is building an economy that works for everyone in Washington state,” Biden’s statement said. “As Governor, he delivered results for working families — expanding health care, passing paid family leave, providing sick leave to every Washington worker, and making historic investments in transportation and education.”
Biden also praised Inslee’s “strong, steady leadership to protect Washingtonians” during the pandemic.
One of Culp’s recent endorsements is from the Family Policy Institute of Washington Action. FPIW Action’s website says it “was formed for the express purpose of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and provide educational services to parents and others in order to strengthen families.”
“While Culp has little experience being part of the political establishment, that may be his greatest strength as he brings a fresh, honest, and independent perspective to both policy and politics,” executive director Mark Miloscia said in a statement last month. “Many others have noticed this; large crowds follow him as he crisscrosses the state, campaigning after a surprise primary win over several establishment-backed Republicans.”
The General Election is Nov. 3. To register to vote, visit voter.votewa.gov.