BY IZZIE LUND
Inslee is the first governor in Washington state to be elected to three terms since Dan Evans, a Republican who was in office from 1965 to 1977. Washington state politicians believe Inslee’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as competitor Loren Culp’s weaknesses as a candidate were the factors that landed him a rare third term.
Chris Vance, a Republican-turned-Independent who is a senior adviser for the Lincoln Project, a group of former Republicans who are against President Donald Trump’s reelection, said Inslee helped Washington state with the pandemic by listening to experts.
“[Inslee] has listened to the experts, the doctors and the scientists on the pandemic,” Vance said. “And that is by far the biggest crisis facing the state. He has done the right thing in terms of the pandemic.”
Jim McKinney, a volunteer for the Whatcom Republicans, said Inslee’s handling of the pandemic, particularly the continued lockdowns, is killing the economy.
“[The lockdowns] really impact the economy, the lower income service sector jobs — the restaurant employees, the waiters and waitresses and bartenders,” McKinney said. “We know there’s going to be a big budget shortfall from the lack of tax revenues from these businesses.”
“We were hit by [COVID-19] first out of all states,” Reding said. “Here in Washington state is where it began, and yet we’ve done dramatically better than other states. He’s kept a lid on the virus here, which is a substantial achievement.”
He said that Republicans are touting the idea of a “V shape” economy during the pandemic, where it gets worse before it gets better, but that in reality it’s more like a “W shape,” where it fluctuates.
“What some of the folks don’t realize is that this was not going to be an instantaneous recovery on the economy,” Reding said. “I think Inslee’s spot is also going to benefit the economy.”
McKinney said that Inslee’s reelection was a loss for the state, although he was not expecting a Culp victory.
“I knew [electing Culp] would be a challenge,” McKinney said. “Both because of the demographics of the state and also because Loren Culp — great guy, but he didn’t have executive experience and people were probably uncomfortable with that.”
McKinney said that even though he was not expecting a Culp victory, he would have liked to see it because Culp likely would have minimized the government’s control over local communities, curbed pandemic restrictions and lowered taxes.
Vance said that Culp’s lack of executive experience, as well as his ties to the Republican party, cost him the gubernatorial race.
“The Republican Party nominated a candidate that is clearly just not qualified to be governor, and [is] out-of-step with science in terms of the pandemic,” Vance said. “The Republicans didn’t give people any choice: Jay Inslee was the only viable choice.”
Vance said that Culp did not have the qualities that strong Republican candidates in Washington state need to have.
“The Republicans who have actually won in Washington state in the past decade have been moderate, suburban-friendly, pro-education, pro-environment, not culture warriors,” Vance said. “You got to be moderate, and you got to have a resume that [make] people think, ‘This guy could be governor.’ But we are far from that right now.”