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Originally published Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 9:15 PM

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Inslee tops McKenna; real race begins now

Democrat Jay Inslee took an early lead over Republican Rob McKenna for governor in Tuesday's state primary election. In the 1st Congressional District, Darcy Burner conceded to Suzan DelBene, who will face Republican John Koster.

Seattle Times staff

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Democrat Jay Inslee led Republican Rob McKenna in Tuesday's state primary election in a dry run that promises to be one of the nation's most closely watched gubernatorial races.

In initial statewide results, Inslee, a seven-term congressman from Bainbridge Island, led Attorney General McKenna, who is seeking to be the first Republican governor elected in Washington since 1980.

In her bid for re-election, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell held a large lead over her Republican challenger, Michael Baumgartner.

In a hard-fought race for the congressional seat Inslee is vacating, former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene outpolled fellow Democrat Darcy Burner, who conceded the race Tuesday night. DelBene, who gave her campaign more than $2.3 million of her own money, will face Republican John Koster, a longtime Snohomish County Council member, who outpolled all other candidates in early returns.

In a state Supreme Court race to be decided in the primary, Steve Gonzalez, appointed to the court last November, held a convincing lead over Bruce Danielson, a Port Orchard trial lawyer.

Under Washington's primary system, any candidate in a Supreme Court race who gets a majority of the vote advances unopposed to the general election.

Richard Sanders, who is attempting to return to the high court after losing his re-election bid two years ago, was trailing Seattle attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud. Another incumbent justice, Susan Owens, appeared to win re-election, getting more than the combined total of her challengers, Seattle attorney Douglas McQuaid and Arlington attorney Scott Stafne.

Seattle voters, based on early results, approved the $123 million library levy while King County's $210 million measure to replace the aging Youth Services Center in Seattle was narrowly passing.

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was unable to stage a political comeback in his campaign for secretary of state. In that race, Republican Kim Wyman, the Thurston County auditor, took a commanding lead over Democrat Kathleen Drew.

In the race to replace McKenna as attorney general, Republican Reagan Dunn was trailing Democrat Bob Ferguson. Both serve on the Metropolitan King County Council. So far, Ferguson has raised $950,000, and Dunn $1 million.

In races for other state offices:

State auditor: Republican business consultant James Watkins advanced easily to the general election, outpolling state Rep. Troy Kelley, D-University Place. Kelley held a small lead over state Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver.

Lieutenant governor: Incumbent Democrat Lt. Gov. Brad Owen will likely face former state Senate Republican Leader Bill Finkbeiner in November.

Commissioner of public lands: Incumbent Democrat Peter Goldmark will run against Republican tea-party favorite Clint Didier in November.

Superintendent of public instruction: State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn appears to have been re-elected in the nonpartisan race, collecting more than 54 percent of the votes.

Insurance commissioner: Incumbent Democrat Mike Kreidler had more than 54 percent of the vote in his re-election bid. In November, he will face either John R. Adams or Scott Reilly, both Republicans. Adams held a slight lead over Reilly.

Statewide voter turnout seemed to start slowly, elections officials said Tuesday, but several counties reported being slammed with more ballots than expected this week.

With four of eight statewide offices and three congressional seats up for grabs, elections experts initially expected voter enthusiasm to be slightly higher than average for the primary season. They were expecting to see ballots from 46 percent of registered voters statewide and from about 52 percent in King County.

But county election officials around the state initially reported that ballots had been coming in at a trickle, leaving some to wonder if the total would come anywhere near early projections.

"It's all anecdotal, of course, but return rates have been slower across the board," said Dave Ammons, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office.

King County elections spokeswoman Kim van Ekstrom said only about 25 percent of the county's 1.1 million ballots had been returned as of Tuesday — less than half of what was expected for the primary. But the county received more than 60,000 ballots in Tuesday's mail and expected an even greater dump Wednesday.

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