If Governor Jay Inslee decides to break yet another promise to Washington State voters, and accepts a job in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, then Lt. Governor-elect Denny Heck will temporarily become governor, kicking the state’s political operatives into high gear as the race to replace Inslee will likely involve several of the state’s major political players.
Most analysts believe that a special election to replace Inslee and fill out the remainder of his new four-year term would occur in November 2021, though others say the state constitution’s language is ambiguous and believe the special election would not occur until 2022,.
It is well known that current Congressman Heck has sought the state’s top position since he felt like he was governor as Chief of Staff to actual Governor Booth Gardner in the early 1990’s, and it is almost certain he will run to retain the seat – despite (like Inslee) saying he would not do such a thing.
Many other Democrats will also view this as their opportunity to become the state’s chief executive. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has built a $3 million war chest and has long been preparing for his move into the big office.
Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz will seek funding from wealthy environmentalists, convinced an Inslee-esque Green message will invigorate the electorate. King County Executive Dow Constantine has been courting the extreme left with his anti-law enforcement proposals as he desires to step back on the statewide stage. There are even rumors that Washington State Democrat Party Chair Tina Podlodowski would seek to bring her very divisive form of politics to the Governor’s mansion.
Without Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, many Republicans would also take a serious look at running for Governor.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman has won three times statewide, and thus has the highest name recognition, which could be especially important in a crowded field.
All three Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation have serious Olympia experience, and each is believed to be eyeing the race if it occurs in 2021, as they would not have to give up their safe congressional seats. Cathy McMorris Rodgers served in the Washington State House of Representatives for 11 years, before representing Eastern Washington in Congress starting in 2005. Dan Newhouse served in the legislature for three terms before becoming the Director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture in 2009, and then in 2015, Newhouse became the Congressman from Central Washington’s 4th District. Jaime Herrera Beutler served two terms in the state House of Representative before defeating the previously mentioned Denny Heck to become the Congresswoman from Southwest Washington in 2010.
Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier was just elected to his second term (in the state’s second largest county) and is often mentioned as possible statewide candidate, and especially now that he is term-limited from staying past 2024 in his current office. Many people were encouraging House Republican leader J.T. Wilcox to run for governor in 2020, and some are hoping he decides to run if there is a special election.
Former Attorney General Rob McKenna has kept a public profile since he narrowly lost to Inslee in 2012, and many are encouraging him to step out of private practice and make another run at becoming governor. Former Seattle Port Commissioner and 2016 candidate for governor, Bill Bryant has stayed active and has often looked at running for higher office. Dr. Raul Garcia garnered the support from many Mainstream Republicans during the this year’s primary campaign and with that experience might be able to mount a more serious campaign. And, one would assume that 2020 candidate Loren Culp would also consider his options as well.
Just as the 2020 election is winding down, and you thought you were escaping, a new political drama is unfolding that could suck you right back in.