- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Results from Washington state’s all-mail primary election will continue to trickle in throughout the week, but the races that were decided early on were no surprise: Democratic incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee and Republican challenger Bill Bryant easily advanced through Washington’s primary to the November ballot, as did Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and opponent Republican Chris Vance.

Many other races may take days to determine as the ballots arrive in elections offices throughout the week following Tuesday’s drop-off deadline.

Counties are expected to post more results Wednesday afternoon as voters have narrowed their choices in dozens of federal, statewide and local races. In early returns Tuesday night in the state’s primary, Inslee had 49 percent of the vote and Bryant had 38 percent. Murray advanced with 54 percent of the vote and Vance had 28 percent.

“By Friday, you should pretty much know the top two finishers in all the races,” said David Ammons, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

All 10 of the state’s U.S. House seats are also on the ballot, including Seattle’s solidly Democratic 7th District, which is an open seat after Jim McDermott decided to retire after serving 14, two-year terms in Congress. That race has drawn nine candidates, including Democratic Sen. Pramila Jayapal, Democratic Rep. Brady Walkinshaw and Metropolitan King County Councilman Joe McDermott, no relation to Jim McDermott. Jayapal, with 38 percent of the vote, advanced to the November ballot, and Walkinshaw and Joe McDermott were fighting for the second slot, with each receiving about 21 percent.

Incumbents are running in the rest of the races in the state’s congressional delegation, where Democrats hold six of the seats, and Republicans hold four.

More than 4 million of the state’s registered voters started receiving their ballots in the mail weeks ago for the top-two primary, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the November ballot, regardless of party. As of Tuesday night, nearly 24 percent of voters had returned their ballots. The secretary of state’s office has estimated a 41 percent turnout rate.

The open seat for lieutenant governor also has drawn a large group of 11 candidates, including three Democratic state senators. Early returns showed Democratic Sen. Cyrus Habib and Republican Marty McClendon both sitting atop the crowd, with 20 percent each.

Other open statewide races include: auditor, lands commissioner, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction. The treasurer’s race showed two Republicans - Duane Davidson and Michael Waite - leading, with 25 and 24 percent, respectively. If the results hold and they advance to the general election, it will be the first time two candidates of the same party have faced off in a statewide race since Washington launched the top-two primary system in 2008. Same-party opponents have emerged in legislative and congressional races.

The fact that of the nine statewide offices on the ballot, five have open seats - without an incumbent - injects a different dynamic into the election, said Cornell Clayton, a political science professor at Washington State University.

“You have so many more candidates from both parties than you would normally have,” he said. “When you have incumbents, it tends to dampen the competition.”

Eric Chase, who dropped off his ballot at the Thurston County Courthouse, said he was “rather disgusted” by the whole election cycle this year.

Chase, a social sciences professor at South Puget Sound Community College, had supported Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. He said presidential primary politics - especially convention superdelegates backing Hillary Clinton even though Sanders won the state’s caucuses - impacted how he voted in state races.

“A lot of our superdelegates are running for re-election,” he said.

Chase said he’s not surprised by the low turnout so far.

“There’s a high level of nonparticipation because people have a bad taste in their mouths,” he said.

Sandra Kozlowski, a 54-year-old chemical dependency counselor who dropped off her ballot at the Olympia courthouse, said she thinks voters are so polarized by the presidential race they are forgetting the importance of voting on state and local races.

“We all need to step up,” she said.

Voters also weighed in on legislative races, with all 98 state House seats and 26 of the Senate’s 49 seats on the ballot. Republicans currently control the Senate, and Democrats control the House, both by narrow margins.

In 78 of the 124 legislative races on the ballot, there’s no real contest in the primary. Twenty-seven races are unopposed, and in 51 seats, only two candidates are running, all of whom will automatically advance to November.

Because Chief Justice Barbara Madsen faces more than one challenger, hers is the only state Supreme Court race on the primary ballot. Madsen advanced Tuesday night with 64 percent of the vote, as did Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel, with 29 percent of the vote.

Justices Mary Yu and Charlie Wiggins each have just one challenger so they won’t appear on the ballot until the general election.

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