Chris Reykdal speaking at NPI's 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala
State Representative Chris Reykdal speaks at NPI's 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC)

Of the nine posi­tions in Wash­ing­ton’s exec­u­tive depart­ment, only one is “non­par­ti­san”: the Office of Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion (OSPI), which is respon­si­ble for the admin­is­tra­tion and over­sight of the state’s pub­lic schools.

The lack of a par­ty label on the bal­lot means there’s less infor­ma­tion for vot­ers to go on when con­tem­plat­ing who to sup­port in this impor­tant down­bal­lot race.

This year, vot­ers will be choos­ing between incum­bent Chris Reyk­dal — who nar­row­ly won the job four years ago in a spir­it­ed con­test with NPI guest con­trib­u­tor Erin Jones — and Maia Espinoza, a right wing can­di­date who holds extreme views, oppos­es com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion, and has false­ly accused Reyk­dal of want­i­ng to teach sex­u­al posi­tions to fourth graders.

Ear­li­er this month, NPI com­mis­sioned a statewide sur­vey of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans in which we asked like­ly vot­ers who they were sup­port­ing for OSPI. We found 30% in sup­port of Reyk­dal, 23% in sup­port of Espinoza, and 47% not sure.

No incum­bent in our sur­vey polled as low as Reyk­dal did. Undoubt­ed­ly, that’s in part due to the fact that this is a “non­par­ti­san” race with no par­ty labels next to the can­di­dates’ names. But Reyk­dal’s lack of vis­i­bil­i­ty is also prob­a­bly a factor.

Reyk­dal has par­tic­i­pat­ed in some of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 press con­fer­ences, but it seems that he is not as well known to the elec­torate as oth­er incum­bents seek­ing reelec­tion to down­bal­lot offices in the state.

Even Repub­li­can State Trea­sur­er Duane David­son, who is per­haps the most endan­gered incum­bent run­ning this cycle (he was best­ed by Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti in the Top Two) out­polled Reyk­dal.

Reyk­dal’s chal­lenger Maia Espinoza has not gained much trac­tion either.

Although Espinoza is enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly backed by the same peo­ple who qual­i­fied Ref­er­en­dum 90, only 23% of respon­dents to our sur­vey expressed sup­port for her can­di­da­cy, where­as Don­ald Trump and can­di­dates able to iden­ti­fy as Repub­li­cans on the bal­lot con­sis­tent­ly received sup­port of at least thir­ty per­cent or more.

Reyk­dal gar­nered 40.24% of the vote in the August Top Two elec­tion, while Espinoza was in sec­ond place with 25.28%. Four oth­er can­di­dates were elim­i­nat­ed, one of whom is a peren­ni­al­ly unsuc­cess­ful candidate.

Reyk­dal and Espinoza would undoubt­ed­ly both ben­e­fit from being able to run as can­di­dates who can state a par­ty pref­er­ence on the bal­lot, though Reyk­dal would like­ly ben­e­fit more due to the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic tilt. Though the race is offi­cial­ly “non­par­ti­san”, in prac­tice it is any­thing but: Reyk­dal has strong and firm Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port; the Repub­li­can Par­ty is back­ing Espinoza.

Here are the num­bers again and the exact ques­tion we asked:

QUESTION: The 2020 can­di­dates for Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion are Chris Reyk­dal and Maia Espinoza. Who are you vot­ing for?


  • Chris Reyk­dal: 30%
  • Maia Espinoza: 23%
  • Not sure: 47%

Our sur­vey of six hun­dred and ten like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Octo­ber 14th through Thurs­day, Octo­ber 15th.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

Reach­ing vot­ers statewide is dif­fi­cult and expen­sive, and the chal­lenge is mag­ni­fied in a low pro­file down­bal­lot race. Reyk­dal’s cam­paign has put togeth­er a mail­er that empha­sizes that he is a Demo­c­rat, through and through, with ser­vice to the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State as a Demo­c­ra­t­ic legislator.

Espinoza, mean­while, has been robo­call­ing vot­ers with false claims about Reyk­dal.

It turns out that in addi­tion to lying about Reyk­dal, Espinoza is also fab­ri­cat­ing details about her­self in an attempt to look like a more cred­i­ble candidate.

The Wash­ing­ton State Wire did some dig­ging into Espinoza­’s back­ground last month and found that she has not com­plet­ed the mas­ter’s degree from West­ern Gov­er­nors Uni­ver­si­ty that she lists in her voter’s pam­phlet statement.

Espinoza­’s sup­port­ers, like Repub­li­can State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michelle Caldier, have tried to brush this off as a rook­ie mis­take from a first time candidate.

But lying to vot­ers about one’s aca­d­e­m­ic cre­den­tials is an extreme­ly seri­ous mat­ter, and Repub­li­cans have made it an issue in oth­er races in the past.

Espinoza­’s non­prof­it, the “Cen­ter for Lati­no Lead­er­ship”, has also false­ly claimed on its web­site to be oper­at­ing as a fed­er­al­ly rec­og­nized 501(c)(3) char­i­ty, when in fact it was not — a fact brought to light by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

From the AP:

Espinoza declined to pro­vide an equiv­a­lent tax fil­ing for her orga­ni­za­tion and said she has nev­er claimed dona­tions are tax deductible in her fundrais­ing efforts. She said the Cen­ter for Lati­no Lead­er­ship has been try­ing to apply for 501(c)3 sta­tus for years but ran into issues with its account­ing firm.

“It’s been a process for sure but we’ve been dili­gent in oper­at­ing as a C3,” Espinoza said in an email.

Ran into issues with its account­ing firm? Sounds like “the dog ate my homework.”

It’s telling that the Cen­ter for Lati­no Lead­er­ship had been months delin­quent in renew­ing its cor­po­rate reg­is­tra­tion at the state lev­el at the time the Asso­ci­at­ed Press checked into the orga­ni­za­tion’s legal stand­ing. Two days after the AP inquired about the Cen­ter’s sta­tus, its annu­al report was belat­ed­ly filed.

If the orga­ni­za­tion can’t even file its annu­al report in a time­ly man­ner, then there’s no rea­son to believe Espinoza is being truth­ful when she says her non­prof­it has been “dili­gent in oper­at­ing as a C3.”

And there’s no rea­son to believe her advi­sors are capa­ble of prop­er­ly advis­ing her giv­en that they don’t seem to under­stand non­prof­it law at all:

Alex Ybar­ra, a Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tor rep­re­sent­ing east­ern Wash­ing­ton in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said he’s been on the board of the cen­ter since its incep­tion. He ini­tial­ly con­firmed the orga­ni­za­tion was a 501(c)(3), but an hour lat­er when informed of the dis­crep­an­cy said he doesn’t know about its tax sta­tus and deferred to Espinoza.

Ybar­ra said his role is advi­so­ry and he has nev­er reviewed the organization’s paper­work or approved its budget.

“It’s not some­thing I ever looked at. I don’t know what a 501(c)(3) tax sta­tus is,” Ybar­ra said. “I’m more a polit­i­cal sound­ing board for her.”


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ybar­ra: please take an after­noon to read the IRS’ guid­ance on exempt orga­ni­za­tions. It’s tru­ly embar­rass­ing that you’re so igno­rant that you told a reporter you don’t know what 501(c)(3) tax sta­tus is. You are one of Wash­ing­ton’s nine­ty-eight state rep­re­sen­ta­tives. You need to know what fed­er­al tax exempt sta­tus is. Also, say­ing you’re on the board of a non­prof­it when you’re actu­al­ly not is mak­ing a false rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Don’t ever do that again.

Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers have an event planned for tomor­row at noon aimed at rais­ing Reyk­dal’s pro­file and sound­ing the alarm over the false and dan­ger­ous things that Espinoza has been say­ing. Con­sid­er­ing how many respon­dents to our sur­vey said right before the vot­ing began that they’re not sure who they’re going to vote for, that’s a very smart move on their part.

Vot­ing in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is cur­rent­ly in progress and is set to con­clude on Novem­ber 3rd, 2020 at 8 PM Pacif­ic in Wash­ing­ton State.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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