2012 Election

Inslee Now Leads in Governor's Race

By Josh Feit August 7, 2012

Photo by Lucas Anderson.

Now that the state elections office has included liberal King County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee leads Republican Rob McKenna 46.78 to 42.93.

Earlier tonight, when the statewide numbers (which did not include King County) showed McKenna ahead 47-43, Inslee focused his comments on the general election. "This is a milestone on the way to November," he said at a primary night press conference at Democratic headquarters on Rainier Ave. in Southeast Seattle. "We'll be in the driver's seat in November. We're gonna count the numbers in November when they matter. If you haven't filled out a ballot, we've got one for you to fill out."

Inslee was on script—or "message discipline," as his team calls it—keeping the low expectations storyline intact. "We'll be just right tonight. And we'll keep pushing our optimistic vision for job creation."

But then the King County numbers came in, showing Inslee winning big in the county: 58 to 35. "You know what?" Inslee spokesman Sterling Clifford said. "We're gonna win tonight." Conventional wisdom in statewide races is that Republicans need to score in the mid 40s in King County to stand a chance.

He was right.

After the numbers came in, Inslee told PubliCola, "Honestly, I didn't have an expectation for tonight, but I knew that whatever the number was we would go on to to do better than that in November." Echoing his low-expectations mantra, Inslee added, "It's a different electorate in November---frankly, a younger electorate. I would say I'm still the lesser-known candidate. I'm going to continue to introduce myself and my jobs agenda."

The Inslee camp had been pushing a low expectations narrative for weeks: low-turnout primaries favor Republican voters. (I'm not sure that's right; as the GOP has pointed out, Democrats have won the recent statewide primaries.) Either way, the new numbers put Inslee up 47-43.

At Inslee's celebration at Democratic Coordinated Campaign headquarters tonight, Inslee's wife, Trudy Inslee (who was fetching chocolate for the victorious candidate while he banged on a bass drum), told PubliCola she wasn't surprised by his lopsided primary finish. "Never underestimate Jay," she said. "These numbers are totally justified because of the way Jay and his team have been working. They're on a mission."

Photo by Josh F.

We have a call in to the McKenna camp for a reaction to the numbers, particularly the King County numbers, which Clifford, after high-fiving campaign spokeswoman Jaime Smith shortly after the King County vote came in, called "devastating for McKenna."

UPDATE: McKenna campaign manager Randy Pepple called the Democrats' spin "complete B.S." He says there are no numbers to show that primaries are conservative. (Earlier in the week he pointed me to the 2008 gubernatorial primary, which Gregoire won handily.)

"I'm pleased with the numbers," Pepple said. "He [Inslee] should have done better. He spent 25 percent more than us on TV. He should have been able to buy a better lead than four points. He'll wish he could have that money back because now we've got a $900,000 advantage. He's on life support. He's been relying on the state Democrats who kicked in $140,000 the last week of the campaign."

Pepple's numbers: the Inslee camp spent $1.1 million on TV and McKenna spent $800,000.

Clifford disputed the numbers and says McKenna spent an additional $140,000 on TV that ran before the primary. "And I could always point out," he adds, dismissing the squabble over the TV spend numbers, "that McKenna went in with the advantage of having won two statewide races. And we're still introducing ourselves."
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