2020 Election | KNKX

2020 Election

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King County will no longer be electing its sheriff. Voters approved a charter amendment that directs the county to appoint its top law enforcement officer. The County Council is planning how to go about making the change.

Black Lives Matter activists gathered in Pioneer Square on Wednesday night to call for every vote to be counted in the presidential election. They also stressed the need to "protect every person" for truly equitable elections in the future.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Black Lives Matter activists gathered in Seattle on Wednesday night, calling for every vote to be counted in the presidential election. But they stressed that their work does not end with the election.

Leaders of the rally in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, titled “Count Every Vote, Protect Every Person,” tried to channel concern over the election into local causes they’ve been advocating for years. They made the argument that every vote cannot truly count if some people are disenfranchised or killed.

Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland poses for a photo, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Tacoma, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Washington has a new congresswoman-elect. Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland will represent the 10th District. The seat was left open after Denny Heck retired from Congress (Heck is currently leading his race for Washington state lieutenant governor).

Strickland defeated fellow Democrat Beth Doglio, a state legislator and environmental activist, who conceded the race Wednesday morning. The split between the two Democrats was roughly 50 to 35 percent in early results, with about 80 percent of the votes counted.

Tarra Simmons, an attorney who previously served time in prison, is on track to become the first formerly incarcerated person to serve in the state Legislature as a representative in the 23rd District.
Courtesy of Tarra Simmons

This week’s general election appears to be moving the needle on diversity in Washington state.

Bartender Sam Schilke watches election results on television at a bar and grill Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Portland, Ore.
Paula Bronstein / The Associated Press

The predictions turned out to be true — that we would not know the result of the presidential contest on Election Night, and that there would be false claims in the meantime.

Last night, President Donald Trump incorrectly claimed victory, with no basis for doing so. At the time of his remarks from the East Room of the White House, neither candidate was close to the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to claim the presidency.

To understand the national picture, we turn to a voice right here in the Northwest.

Pierce County election workers sort through ballots at the election center in Tacoma last month.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It’s Election Day 2020, arguably one of the most anticipated elections in recent memory. 

Early voting numbers indicate Washington state is likely to shatter records for turnout, young voters appear to be more engaged than ever, and election officials have been working relentlessly to assure voters that their ballots will be safely tallied

There’s a lot to cover. KNKX Public Radio has been talking with representatives from political parties, grassroots organizers, current and former candidates, and more to bring you comprehensive coverage of key races across the region. 

And now, we’re bringing you results from those races.

In this file photo, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is seen campaigning as Democratic presidential candidate, during a Columbia Climate Strike rally at Columbia University on Friday March 15, 2019, in New York City.
Bebeto Matthews / The Associated Press (file)

Environmental groups have become some of the biggest spenders in U.S. politics this election. Washington state is no exception.

The Washington Conservation Voters political action committee (WCV PAC) has poured some $425,000 into about 10 state legislative races. In each case, fossil fuel interests have funded campaigns on the other side.

Sameth Mell is project director with Partners in Change, a division of the Equity in Education Coalition. He organizes around pandemic issues in King County.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Throughout the pandemic, local grassroots organizations have stepped up to help people in need, by getting people things like food, child care or rental assistance. They’re often trying to fill the gaps left by federal and local governments. 

This work likely will be impacted by the outcome of Tuesday's election.

People walk near a sign at the King County election headquarters in Renton, Wash., Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Washington voters have been casting their ballots entirely by mail since 2011. But two years ago, state legislators started requiring in-person vote centers, to respond to voter’s needs in the final days before the election. They open Saturday.  

When civic leaders wanted to tear down Pike Place Market in the 1970s, people rallied to save it. Pictured here is a demonstration from 1971.
MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.54096.1, photo by Tom Brownell

Sometimes in the heat of an election, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But there are lessons to be learned from taking a step back and putting it in context.

An online exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry, or MOHAI, in Seattle does that. It looks at how democracy has played out in Washington state over the years, from how we cast our ballots to our use of the initiative process to our history of protesting.

A postmarked vote-by-mail ballot is shown at the King County election headquarters in Renton, Wash., Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Over the past few years, Washington Democrats seem to have solidified their power in the state. They have a majority in both legislative chambers. They make up most of our Congressional delegation. And they hold most statewide offices.

That puts local Republicans in a tough position going into this year's elections.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democratic challenger Carolyn Long are vying to represent Washington's 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington. The race is seen as "flippable."
Don Ryan / Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press (file)

It’s the most expensive race in Washington’s 2020 election. In Washington’s 3rd Congressional District in Southwest Washington, Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler is fighting for a sixth term against second-time Democrat challenger Carolyn Long.

Nurses put on PPE outside Harborview on April 2, 2020.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press


A major expansion of Harborview Medical Center is on the ballot in King County. It’s listed as King County Proposition 1. If approved, the $1.7 billion, 20-year bond would pay for a new 10-story medical tower along with upgrades to emergency and behavioral health facilities, as well as earthquake proofing.

Jennifer Wing / knkx

Seattle voters are considering a sales tax to fund bus services and additional transit-related programs. Proposition 1 authorizes a 0.15 percent sales tax. That's equivalent to 15 cents per every $100 spent.

The measure would replace a 0.1 percent sales tax and $60 car tab fee voters approved in 2014 that pays for bus services, free ORCA cards for high school students and low income seniors, and other programs. Proposition 1 only includes a sales tax and would not renew the car tab fee.

In this Jan. 5, 2012, photo, Susan Enfield, now superintendent of Highline Public Schools, spoke to reporters at the Capitol in Olympia.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

Voters in the Highline school district south of Seattle will be deciding whether to approve a two-year levy to pay for new computers and other technology. The shift to remote learning in the pandemic has highlighted the need.

The levy would collect a total of $32.5 million over two years. But the property tax rate would go down a little bit even if voters approve the measure. That’s because some general obligation bonds the district refinanced last year will be paid off next year and the district’s operations levy rate is set to decline a bit from this year to next.

For more than half a century, Republicans have had a lock on Washington’s Secretary of State’s office. This year, Democrats hope to end that five decade run by unseating incumbent Kim Wyman who’s seeking a third term.

Democrats feel they have the political winds at their back and an unusually strong challenger in Gael Tarleton, a state lawmaker and former Port of Seattle commissioner who once worked as a defense intelligence analyst for the Pentagon.

Republicans, meanwhile, are counting on a long history of ticket-splitting by Washington voters who might repudiate President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, but be willing to support a veteran elections official and familiar state Republican further down the ballot.

“Give me three terms” might be the motto of Washington’s November election. Gov. Jay Inslee, Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are all seeking a third, four-year term this year.

Not to be outdone, State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is going for a sixth round.

Yes, long-term incumbents hoping to go even longer is a definite theme this year.

But the statewide ballot also features some newcomers, some higher office seekers and even a congressman who wants a one-way ticket back to the state Capitol.

A worker processes vote-by-mail ballots from August's primary election.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

We've seen birtherism in national campaigns — the practice of questioning a candidate’s qualifications for office by raising doubts about where they were born, or their citizenship. Then-citizen Donald Trump famously raised questions about Barack Obama's qualifications for the White House. As president, Trump is amplifying unfounded rumors about vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris.

But now birtherism has appeared at the local level. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins spoke to KNKX All Things Considered host Ed Ronco about a story he reported about a candidate in Thurston County defending herself against a birther attack.

Last May, opponents of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay home order staged a “Hazardous Liberty” rally on the campus of the Washington Capitol. Guns outnumbered masks as speaker after speaker – mostly Republican officeholders and candidates – decried Inslee’s response to the pandemic as monarchical and an assault on individual freedom.

The sign–and-flag-waving crowd cheered the speakers as they lambasted Inslee. But one speaker in particular seemed to have attained a kind of celebrity status among many in the crowd.   

“I think you know who’s coming, doncha,” boomed the emcee. “No introduction needed: Sheriff Loren Culp.”

A worker in a purple shirt and mask sits in the foreground working with ballots. Another one, also wearing a mask, sits at a table far behind the first.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washingtonians are voting the same way they have for about a decade — by mailing in their ballots or putting them into drop boxes. But the people on the other end of that process have been working very differently.

Processing ballots now requires physical distancing among election workers, and fewer people in some of the secure spaces where ballots are scanned and tabulated.

Washington’s typically sleepy August primary will test the endurance of voters as they navigate a larger-than-usual crop of candidates. The robust turnout of would-be officeholders may be, at least partially, the result of the state making it easier to qualify for the ballot in light of the coronavirus pandemic.