By HUNTER GEORGE
SEATTLE – Gov. Gary Locke, who focuses more on consistency than charisma, easily won a second term Tuesday over Republican challenger John Carlson.
The Democrat said Washington voters appreciate his grasp of complex issues and his ability to make consistent improvements in education, economic development, welfare reform and other areas.
“I think the strong support we’re getting all across the state is a vindication of my leadership style,” Locke said Tuesday night. “I get results. I may not be pounding the table like Jesse Ventura, but we get results.”
Carlson, a former radio talk show host, had stepped out from behind the microphone to take on the governor because he said the state needs a stronger leader. He had no immediate comment.
Locke led in 28 of 39 counties, and dominated across the board in terms of gender, age and income, according to preliminary exit poll results from Voter News Service, a partnership of The Associated Press and television networks.
Sixty-one percent of voters who identified themselves as independents or members of minor parties said they voted for the governor. In addition, Locke was supported by one in four people who voted for Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and one in five who voted for Republican George W. Bush in the presidential race.
Locke said voters saw through Carlson’s attempt to go around the state promising bridges, highways and other goodies.
“I’ve never gone around promising things that you can’t deliver on,” the governor said. “We’ll continue to work on education, along with transportation and water and energy.”
Carlson, also known for successfully leading campaigns for three ballot initiatives, faced huge obstacles from the get-go.
He had the difficult task of trying to persuade voters to oust a popular incumbent at a time of economic prosperity, at least in Western Washington. And Carlson, who has never held elective office, was not well known outside the Puget Sound-area radio market.
He used his trademark sarcasm and media savvy to define the tone of the campaign and keep the focus on Locke’s leadership abilities – specifically, whether the governor has any.
Carlson repeatedly noted that five of the six initiatives on Tuesday’s ballot addressed property taxes, traffic congestion or education needs, and said voters would not feel the need to take these issues into their own hands if a strong governor were in charge.
Carlson’s attacks brought out the fire in Locke.
The governor said Republicans in the Legislature blocked his proposals to ease traffic congestion and cut property taxes. Despite the roadblocks, he was able to win approval of proposals to test new teachers and grant college scholarships to middle-class families, and he said his reading-tutor program is helping to boost student test scores.
Locke reported raising $3.7 million in campaign funds by the end of October. Carlson raised $2.4 million and spent much of it building name recognition.
Carlson was strongly backed by owners of small businesses who complained about a proliferation of government regulations under Locke. Many of the state’s big corporations played it safe by contributing to the popular incumbent.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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