And it's bad news for McKenna, who hopes to become the first Republican elected governor of the Evergreen State since John Spellman in 1980. McKenna won re-election in 2008 by a wider margin than President Obama won Washington's electoral votes, giving the GOP hopes of making inroads into Democratic territory.
But to win statewide, Republicans must run up big margins east of the Cascade Mountains while holding Democratic margins to a minimum in Western Washington. The general rule of thumb is that Republicans must win 40 percent of the vote in King County, home of Seattle, to be competitive statewide; on Tuesday, McKenna won just 35.4 percent in King County.
Inslee and the other Democrat he beat accounted for more than 50 percent of the vote in Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and Whatcom Counties. McKenna won 28 of the state's 39 counties.
Before polls closed, McKenna's campaign played down the results. They pointed to 2008, when McKenna scored a lower percentage in the primary than he did in the general election. "The McKenna campaign expects Attorney General McKenna to finish in the top two in tonight's primary, and thus move on to the general election, where his New Direction for Washington State approach will resonate with the larger electorate and result in victory," campaign manager Randy Pepple wrote in a memo to members of the media.