Republicans last won a governor’s race in the state in 1980, when John Spellman was elected. Voters ousted Spellman at the end of his first time, around the time McKenna was student body president at the University of Washington.
The GOP has come close in some elections, most notably the 2004 race in which Dino Rossi lost to current Gov. Christine Gregoire by 133 votes.
Republicans had been cultivating McKenna as a potential gubernatorial candidate for years, as he worked his way from the King County Council to attorney general. In that seat, he won 59 percent of the vote in 2008.
Inslee, meanwhile, took his first run at the governor’s seat in 1996 but lost in a primary to eventual Gov. Gary Locke. He also bounced back from a 1994 defeat when he was serving as a congressman on the eastern side of the state and eventually won a new seat in Congress after his family moved west to Bainbridge Island.
Inslee held that congressional seat for a decade, becoming a leader in clean energy issues.
Clean energy also became a focus of Inslee’s campaign for governor this year. He vowed to focus investments on that industry and others – such as life sciences and agriculture – to stimulate job growth.
To deal with Washington’s unbalanced budget, Inslee said the state would bring in extra money from economic growth. He also vowed to seek savings in the health care industry and make government more efficient by following “lean management” practices.
McKenna, meanwhile, repeatedly noted that Olympia had been guided by Democrats for years and that the percentage of money going to education has shrunk under their watch. He vowed to cap non-education spending growth at 6 percent per biennium while also seeking improvements in health care costs and government efficiency.
Gregoire has been skeptical about whether McKenna and Inslee’s budget ideas are viable, and she believes new tax revenue is necessary.