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Credit: Dyer Oxley / KUOW

2 surprising election results that you may not have noticed in Washington

While all eyes have been focused on the 2020 national election, Washington made a series of notable election wins this week.

The state will send its first Black woman and first Korean-American to Congress. A governor won a rare third term. And massive voter turnout was recorded.

But two other things happened in Washington that many may have missed, at least, if you ask CR Douglas with Q13 News and Joni Balter with Civic Cocktail.

Douglas and Balter joined KUOW's Angela King Wednesday morning after initial ballot counts were reported in Washington state. They point out that one write-in candidate took in a shocking number of votes. And they also question if voters know what they are getting themselves into with a big change to King County law enforcement.

Write-in candidate Joshua Freed

Former Bothell City Council Member Joshua Freed failed to get past the August primary election, but he still garnered a considerable share of votes as a write-in candidate in November.

“I think the biggest surprise, locally, is in lieutenant governor’s race where you had Joshua Freed, this write-in candidate, Republican, who is getting 575,000 votes," Douglas said. "That could easily top 600,000 when all ballots are counted. That is phenomenal for a write-in. He wasn’t in the voters’ pamphlet, he wasn’t in the video voters’ guide. To get almost 600,000 people to write in your name – obviously didn’t win – that’s the biggest surprise locally.”

Balter agrees that the number of write-in votes is impressive, but considering the bigger picture, she notes that "it doesn’t change a thing."

"Congressman Denny Heck will be the next lieutenant governor, and governor for a while if Jay Inslee goes to Washington DC in some climate capacity," Balter said.

Big picture: The lieutenant governor's race may be more influential this time around.

Balter says that Heck previously stated he will not run for governor if he is appointed and has to defend the position in a future election. Still -- and this all speculative -- depending on how the national election plays out, and if Governor Inslee takes an early exit from his job, the lieutenant governor's office could be an avenue into the state's top job.

While Freed took in the 575,000 write-in votes, Heck initially got about 1.4 million -- 47% of the vote.

Freed initially aimed for the governor's office, but lost in the August primary. Since then, he organized a write-in campaign for the lieutenant governor's office. Two Democrats advanced out of the August primary for that position and were therefore the only two options listed on the ballot.

Freed's write-in campaign was also hyped along the campaign trail for gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp.

King County Sheriff

Charter Amendment 5 passed with nearly 57% of the vote. The amendment considerably alters how law enforcement is organized in the county by changing the sheriff's job from an elected position to an appointed one.

The sheriff's job was previously appointed, until the county voted to make it an elected position in the 1990s. This this week's vote, the county has changed its mind. The job will now be appointed by the King County executive, which Balter says, in theory, is aimed at making the job less political.

But both Balter and Douglas are wary of the outcome.

“I was having a discussion, in general, with a former city council member a few weeks about, about how voters in Seattle and King County just love almost anything they see as a government fix," Balter said. "Seattle votes for district elections for City Council, without really thinking how big a difference it will make or what kind of council it will deliver. Same idea here -- voters wanted to improve something, and it may not be an improvement.”

“Yeah, it does seem King County voters are unsure exactly how they want this office to be chosen," Douglas said. "Originally, it was elected, then appointed, then elected, and now appointed again. We’ll see what happens. Reformers have wanted this. They think it streamlines the system. They think having the county executive being totally in charge of public safety is the right way to do it, making it look more like Seattle and frankly most cities that have an appointed police chief.”

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