With the glamour of a national election, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the races at the state level. However, this year, Washington voters will weigh in on state measures with widespread impacts. Voters will also settle two extremely close races for governor and attorney general, as well as decide if Senator Maria Cantwell has earned another term in her race against upstart Republican politician Michael Baumgartner.

State Offices:
U.S. Senate:
Maria Cantwell (D) vs. Michael Baumgartner (R)

Maria Cantwell, the incumbent, has held this office since 2001 and has led this race from the start. Cantwell still maintains a dominating lead. In the August primaries, Cantwell earned 55.66 percent of the vote while Baumgartner garnered 30.07 percent. An October 14 Rasmussen poll showed Cantwell up 15 points, but some polls have her leading by as much as 23 points.
Baumgartner is passionate about foreign policy, particularly ending the war in Afghanistan. Cantwell is focused on job creation in Washington State.

Baumgartner burst onto the Washington political scene in 2010 when he entered a state senate race against Chris Marr, a democrat who had represented Spokane since 2006. After a campaign that became the most expensive legislative campaign in state history, Baumgartner won the election.

Cantwell served in the Washington State Legislature from 1987-1993, the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-1995 and has represented Washington in the U.S. Senate since 2001.

 Jay Inslee (D) vs. Rob McKenna (R)

This is a hotly contested race and has been all election season. Inslee narrowly edged out McKenna in the August primaries, capturing 47.13 percent of the vote compared to McKenna’s 42.9 percent. A Rasmussen poll from October 14 showed Inslee still held a narrow, two-point lead.

The candidates have similar views on taxes, transportation plans, collective bargaining policies and the need to balance Washington’s budget by streamlining government. Where the candidates differ sharply is their views on Referendum 74, Initiative 1240 and federal healthcare.

Inslee is in support of Referendum 74, and states that he believes same-sex couples should have equal rights. McKenna opposes R-74 due to religious reasons, but has said he will support whatever the public decides in regards to same-sex marriage.

Inslee is opposed to I-1240, which would allow charter schools in Washington, while McKenna supports it.

When it comes to federal healthcare, the candidates emphatically disagree. As a congressmen, Inslee proudly voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, while McKenna, serving as Washington’s Attorney General at the time, joined other U.S. attorney generals in an attempt to overturn the law.

Inslee’s experience includes four years serving in the Washington State House of Representatives, as well as serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-1994 and 1999-2012. He has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers Washington, Governor Christine Gregoire, Environment Washington, Equal Rights Washington, the Human Rights Campaign, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and the Sierra Club.  

McKenna has served as King County Council and Washington State Attorney General. His endorsements include the Association of Washington Businesses, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, The Seattle Times, The Tacoma News Tribune, The Spokane Spokesman-Review, and Washington REALTORS.  

Attorney General:
Reagan Dunn (R) vs. Bob Ferguson (D)

This race is tightening as Election Day gets closer, becoming one of the closest races in the state. Ferguson had the early lead in the primaries with 51.68 percent of the vote compared to Dunn’s 38.2 percent. However, the latest Elway poll showed Ferguson’s lead is down to just two percentage points, with 25% of voters still undecided between the two candidates.

Ferguson and Dunn have served together as King County councilmembers since 2005. According to the Seattle Times, while serving on the council together, they have faced 3,878 full-council votes and only disagreed on 43 of them, or 1% of the total votes. These areas in which they have disagreed have mainly been on issues in which the candidates stuck sharply to party lines. Ferguson voted to support Obama’s healthcare plan, while Dunn voted against it. Dunn tends to reject motions that would lead to increased government regulation, such as a votes about whether to ban smoking in county parks, require vending machines to provide healthier snacks, or force swimmers and boaters to wear life jackets. Ferguson voted for all of those motions.

Dunn is a former federal prosecutor and has experience with the Assistant United State Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice. He has also served as the National Coordinator for Project Safe Neighborhoods. Ferguson has experience in several different courts as a law clerk as well as a litigation attorney. He was also the director of the Emergency Services Office in Portland in 1990.

State Measures
Referendum Measure No. 74: Marriage Equality

Referendum 74 would allow same-sex couples to marry, but would also give religious organizations the freedom to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage ceremony they don’t agree with.

Those opposed to the bill primarily argue that traditional marriage is what is best for children and that God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. They also argue the bill doesn’t grant same-sex couples any significant legal right that was denied to them under Washington’s existing domestic partnership laws.

Supporters of the bill essentially argue that separate but equal is not truly equal, so allowing same-sex couples the same benefits as marriage but calling it a domestic partnership is unjust. They believe that being able to use the word “marriage” matters. They also point out that the American Academy of Pediatrics ruled that same-sex marriage actually promotes healthy children and families.

Four different states will vote on issues related to same-sex marriage this November, with Washington, Maryland and Maine voting on whether to allow it and Minnesota voting on whether to adopt a state constitutional amendment banning it.

In the six states that allow same-sex marriage (New York, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut) the decision was made either by court ruling or a legislative measure. Since 1988, 32 different measures pertaining to same-sex marriage have been put on state ballots, and voters have ruled against same-sex marriage every time.

In Washington State, the most recent polls show voters in support of the bill slightly outnumber voters against it, but the lead is not significant enough to break the 50 percent mark.