(The Center Square) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will be returning to Olympia for another four years as the state's top executive, election results showed on Tuesday night.
With all but four rural counties reporting in at 9:30 p.m. PST, Inslee was leading Republican opponent and Republic Police Chief Loren Culp by nearly 20 points in a landslide victory.
Inslee is the first Washington governor in more than a half century to serve three full terms since Republican Washington Gov. Dan Evans was elected in 1965.
He has steadily expanded his lead over his election opponents since first beating Republican and former Washington State Attorney Rob McKenna by just 3 points in 2012 and Republican Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant by about 9 points in 2016.
"I cannot express the honor I feel to be elected to a third term as governor," Inslee said in a statement. "The people of Washington have given my administration a unique place in history, and I will work hard for you every day, just as I have for the past eight years."
Loren Culp would have been the state's first Republican governor since John Spellman's election in 1980.
Culp could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night. Culp has since refused to concede to Inslee as of Wednesday morning after a livestream address to his supporters.
Culp and Inslee debated one another live in separate rooms last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic which two have campaigned on all year.
Since the pandemic hit the state in full force and ravaged the state economy, Inslee has a steady stream of public health restrictions and pulled counties in and out of reopening phases.
Unlike Oregon to the south, Washington's public schools largely remain closed based on decisions by local school boards and not the governor's office which never restricted onsite instruction.
Much of Culp's platform was built around attacks against Inslee over such health restrictions as well as the governor's response to civil unrest in Seattle amid ongoing protests against police brutality.
Neither Culp nor Inslee answered activists' calls to end qualified immunity for police officers. This summer, Inslee called on the Attorney General's office to reopen an investigation into the killing of Manuel Ellis by Tacoma police.
The two candidates further sparred over gun control, government spending, and the state of Washington's mental health programs.
Inslee will continue his duties as governor amid a pandemic, a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and the worst economy Washington has seen in recent history.
He will contend with ongoing litigation from Washington's property owners over the state's rent moratorium and demands from housing advocates over rent relief.
Creating renewable energy jobs and addressing climate change will no doubt be on the table as they have been for most of Inslee's political career.
Inslee's third term will also see him address the fallout of South Carolina snatching up the production of Boeing's lucrative 787 jetliners.
Come January, Inslee will meet with Washington lawmakers to take up the task of balancing the state's budget as the state faces a more uncertain future.