While Biden will take the White House, incumbents prevail in Washington and Idaho races

While Biden will take the White House, incumbents prevail in Washington and Idaho races
Washington Governor photo
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee easily won re-election against Republican opponent Loren Culp.

With election anticipation high this year, voters around the country turned out in record numbers, with many voting by mail for the first time.

Spokane County saw more than 293,000 ballots returned or about 81 percent voter turnout this election, compared to the roughly 239,000 returned in 2016 that marked about 78 percent turnout that year. Kootenai County also saw huge turnout, with more than 87 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

With so many voting by mail for the first time due to the pandemic, the country had to practice the patience that Washington state voters have learned over the last decade or so, understanding that mail-in ballots sometimes take a few days after the election to get counted. Some states didn't allow election officials to start counting those ballots until the next day.

The presidential election was the main driver for the large turnout, and while a little more than 50 percent of voters in Spokane County and nearly 70 percent in Kootenai County voted for Republican President Donald Trump, it took days to learn who the next president would be due to close counts in swing states.

Finally, by Saturday morning, it was clear that Democrat Joe Biden was the president-elect, making his running mate Kamala Harris the first woman and first woman of color who will serve as vice president.

Harris, wearing a white suit hearkening to the attire of the suffragettes who fought for women's right to vote, noted the importance of setting an example for children of all backgrounds. She gave a nod to the hard work of women, particularly Black women, in working to secure civil rights for all.

"While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," Harris said during her speech in Delaware. "Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."

Biden, meanwhile, said he would work to represent all Americans, regardless of whether they elected him. Citing an often-quoted Bible passage about there being a season for everything, Biden said now is the time to heal.

"I will work to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify," Biden said. "I won't see red states and blue states, I will always see the United States."

Even as people started their workweek, however, Trump had refused to concede the election, saying he'd keep fighting in court.

As of the votes tabulated by Nov. 9, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee easily won re-election against Republican opponent Loren Culp, who had a steady showing in Eastern Washington but only won 42.79 percent of the vote to Inslee's 56.88 percent.

Inslee earned praise locally and nationally early on for his swift shutdown orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 and for keeping Washington's death rate low, compared to other states. He took his re-election as a win for science, both endorsing his approach to COVID and climate change.

The three Democratic incumbents who represent the city of Spokane in DISTRICT 3 of the state Legislature easily won re-election. Sen. Andy Billig (58.07 percent) beat challenger Dave Lucas (41.63 percent), Rep. Marcus Riccelli (60.36 percent) beat challenger Laura Carder (39.27 percent), and Rep. Timm Ormsby (62.49 percent) beat challenger Bob Apple (37 percent).

Meanwhile, the Spokane Valley/Liberty Lake DISTRICT 4 has had an outsized amount of attention over the last year after outgoing Rep. Matt Shea was ousted from the State Republican Caucus after he was found to have "participated in an act of domestic terrorism against the United States" by independent investigators hired by state lawmakers. Shea opted not to run for re-election, opening up his seat for his allies to run.

Indeed, Republican Rep. Bob McCaslin, who was already serving the district's other seat in the state House, ran for and was voted into Shea's old seat, besting challenger Lori Feagan with 60.24 percent of the vote. McCaslin hasn't stirred up nearly as much attention as Shea during his time in the Legislature, although he has a similar voting record.

Republican and former Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase, who has long defended Shea and is an ally, took over McCaslin's old seat, getting 61.95 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Lance Gurel's 37.72 percent. Incumbent Republican state Sen. Mike Padden (62.48 percent) also beat challenger John Roskelley (37.37 percent).

In DISTRICT 6, covering west Spokane County, Republican incumbents also came out on top. Rep. Mike Volz (51.88 percent) beat challenger Zack Zappone (47.89 percent).

Voters also weren't deterred by Rep. Jenny Graham's outburst this fall, when she called an Inlander writer a "c—-sucker" and a "lying piece of shit" for accurately reporting that she had been sharing sites that spread conspiracies. Despite making negative headlines around the country in media outlets from the Fox TV station in Seattle to the Washington Post, Graham handily won (54.21 percent) against challenger Tom McGarry (45.54 percent).

Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (62.58 percent) won re-election against Democrat Paulette Jordan (33.28 percent), a Coeur d'Alene Tribe member who previously made an unsuccessful bid for state governor.

"We were called to a battle where we were outnumbered and outgunned, and we still showed up," Jordan wrote on her official election Twitter account. "That's courage, that's leadership, that's love. This movement is not going anywhere. You've shown me that."

Risch has served as senator since 2009, and was previously Idaho's lieutenant governor and served a short term as governor from 2006 to 2007 when then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne left during the last year of his term to become U.S. secretary of interior.

Idaho's First District also re-elected Republican U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher (67.76 percent) over opponent Rudy Soto (28.65 percent).

Washington voters passed Referendum 90 with 58 percent voting to approve the measure that implements a law passed by the Legislature this year to require comprehensive sexual education in all school districts.

Parents in some areas had expressed concerns about the content of that education for the youngest children, but proponents assured people that parents can still opt their child out, districts will still choose which curricula they use, and all lessons will be age-appropriate.

Washington voters, meanwhile, rejected an effort to allow the state to invest money from the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account in stocks or other investments in order to grow that fund. The measure failed to pass with 54.17 percent of voters rejecting it.

The measure would have amended the state constitution to allow for that type of investing. ♦

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...