Rep. Jenny Graham, outed for her links to conspiracy-theory websites, has a healthy lead in Tuesday's preliminary election returns

click to enlarge Republican Rep. Jenny Graham and Democratic challenger Tom McGarry
Republican Rep. Jenny Graham and Democratic challenger Tom McGarry

For a brief moment this fall, Jenny Graham, the incumbent state representative for Washington’s 6th District, captured the country’s attention. Her name bounced from coast to coast, appearing in stories in the Washington Post, New York Daily News, Esquire, The Hill, Crosscut, Jezebel, Raw Story, the Fox TV station in Seattle and a bunch of other outlets. 

Problem was, the reason the Republican lawmaker was making headlines was the fact she had threatened an Inlander reporter and called him a “c—-sucker” and “a lying piece of shit” after he accurately reported on her habit of sending her followers to websites advancing batshit-crazy conspiracy theories. It was all caught on tape, so there was no room to deny it.

That round of head-slapping news involving Graham appeared to open the door to her challenger, Tom McGarry. The 6th District — which covers parts of north Spokane, the South Hill and West Plains — is seen as perhaps Eastern Washington’s only swing district, though it’s lately leaned Republican. McGarry, a Democrat, quickly leveraged her foul-mouthed tirade into a fundraising call, saying that he was concerned about “her well-being.”

“Ms. Graham is too extreme — and too unstable — to do the people’s work in Olympia. This is why I stepped up to run for office,” McCarry wrote in a Sept. 15 campaign newsletter.

Still, speaking to the Inlander on Monday, McGarry, 61, a local attorney, wasn’t sure how successful he had been in getting out that message. Now, with results coming in Tuesday night, he says he's not quite sure what to make of it.

"It's disappointing, but it's not over yet," McGarry said. "As far as takeaways, I'm still trying to get my head around that."

Graham was leading with 52.83 percent of the vote to McGarry’s 47, with a lead of over 4,300 votes, preliminary returns show, though officials expect to continue tallying ballots in the coming days. McGarry said he didn't plan to concede Tuesday.

Graham, 55, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday night; earlier Tuesday, it was reported that she had contracted COVID-19 and would be watching election results in quarantine. 

As the Inlander has previously reported, Graham has raised some skepticism around COVID-19, and in June, Facebook flagged a post that Graham shared as false for incorrectly suggesting that coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci was in favor of rushing a vaccine. And in August, Graham objected to Facebook flagging a video as incorrect that argued that masks were ineffective and that the drug hydroxychloroquine cured coronavirus.

"Who's fact checking the fact checkers?" Graham wrote in response, urging Congress to "hold these companies accountable" and "de-weaponize social media platforms."

Graham has been a licensed cosmetologist and esthetician since 1984 and served in the Army Reserves. She was first elected to represent the district in Olympia in 2018, beating out Democrat Dave Wilson for the open seat by just 672 votes. 

This time, though, Graham had the power of incumbency behind her. And despite refusing to speak to Spokesman-Review journalists for an election story, she garnered the paper’s endorsement, which gave her the nod while noting her “recent embarrassing behavior.”

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About The Author

Jacob H. Fries

Jacob H. Fries is the editor of the Inlander. In that position, he oversees editorial coverage of the paper and occasionally contributes his own writing. Before joining the paper, he wrote for numerous publications, including the Tampa Bay Times, the Boston Globe and the New York Times. He grew up in Spokane Valley...