The campaigns for Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee are avoiding predictions of victory tonight, and both are managing expectations in the event it takes a few days to figure out a winner. The election is the first exclusively vote-by-mail to pick a Washington governor in state history.
McKenna's campaign manager Randy Pepple put out a memo last night that said there is unlikely to be a definitive winner tonight and suggesting that Inslee will actually lead in vote counts tonight. I'm condensing his remarks a bit too much, but Pepple said polling shows Inslee led among early voters but that internal polls for McKenna show the Republican will benefit from greater support from those turning in ballots in the last five days.
If true that would buck the trend seen in the 2010 election when many close races were later decided unequivocally in favor of Democrats. Good examples: Kathy Haigh and Fred Finn in the 35th Legislative District, both of whom narrowly led on election night and pulled out wins of more than 1,000 votes each.
Asked about Pepple's analysis, Inslee's spokeswoman Jaime Smith agreed it could take a few days to know the winner.
"We expect to win, but it will be close and we likely won't know until tomorrow or Thursday," Smith said.
As for who might lead tonight? "I'm not sure about tonight but we expect to be ahead in the final count," she said.