McKenna's campaign struggled to defend itself against attacks by Inslee's campaign and Democratic outside groups, which tied him to far more conservative national figures. Inslee, meanwhile, portrayed himself as a representative of both sides of the Cascades who would bring green jobs to the state.
But his jobs plan was widely panned for lacking specifics, particularly by state newspapers, which endorsed McKenna over Inslee, eleven-to-one. Nonetheless, Inslee's decision to resign from Congress to mount a gubernatorial bid paid off. He will be inaugurated as Washington's fifth consecutive Democratic governor on January 14. Current Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire is retiring.
Inslee's victory leaves Republicans with just one gubernatorial pick-up this cycle, with former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory set to take the reins from Democratic North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue next year. Beginning in 2013, Republicans will hold 30 of the nation's governor's mansions, the most the party has held since before the 2000 election.