Denny Heck and Marko Liias
Denny Heck and Marko Liias, candidates for Lieutenant Governor (Campaign photos)

This year’s con­test for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor in Wash­ing­ton State pits two Democ­rats against each oth­er in the final round: U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck and State Sen­a­tor Marko Liias. Heck is a four term mem­ber of Con­gress who is retir­ing from fed­er­al pol­i­tics while Liias is a vet­er­an state leg­is­la­tor who serves as Major­i­ty Floor Leader and would like to make the jump to high­er office.

It’s unusu­al for a statewide race to have two can­di­dates in it from the same par­ty in the final round. But Repub­li­can vot­ers were pret­ty split as to who they want­ed for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor in the August Top Two elec­tion, which result­ed in both of the top two spots going to Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates. (Some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pened in 2016 in the Trea­sur­er’s race, which was a runoff between two Republicans.)

Our research finds that Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck has a big advan­tage in the con­test for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor. 32% of like­ly Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed by our poll­ster a week ago said they are vot­ing for Heck, while only 16% said they were vot­ing for State Sen­a­tor Mark Liias. A whop­ping 52% said they were not sure.

(The high num­ber of not sure respon­dents is undoubt­ed­ly in part due to the fact that there was no Repub­li­can can­di­date avail­able for respon­dents to choose, though Joshua Freed is run­ning a write-in campaign.)

Each can­di­date has sup­port from key con­stituen­cies and dis­tin­guished lead­ers with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. For­mer Gov­er­nors Gary Locke and Chris Gre­goire back Heck, while cur­rent Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Cyrus Habib sup­ports Liias.

Most of Liias’ col­leagues in the State Sen­ate have endorsed him, as well, while Heck is endorsed by the major­i­ty of his in-state con­gres­sion­al colleagues.

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

QUESTION: The 2020 can­di­dates for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor are Demo­c­rat Den­ny Heck and Demo­c­rat Marko Liias. Who are you vot­ing for?


  • Den­ny Heck: 32%
  • Marko Liias: 16%
  • Not sure: 52%

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.

The Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State has three main duties:

  • Pre­sid­ing over the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate (the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor also chairs the very impor­tant Sen­ate Rules Committee);
  • Step­ping in for the Gov­er­nor and assum­ing that posi­tion when the state’s chief exec­u­tive is not avail­able or able to per­form their duties;
  • Serv­ing as liai­son between Wash­ing­ton State’s gov­ern­ment and diplo­mat­ic mis­sions from oth­er countries.

The posi­tion is not as high pro­file as Gov­er­nor or Attor­ney Gen­er­al, but is nev­er­the­less impor­tant. Democ­rats have held the office of Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor for decades, and it is all but guar­an­teed to remain in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands for anoth­er four years as a result of the August Top Two election.

Heck and Liias will appear tonight in a tele­vised statewide orga­nized by the Wash­ing­ton State Debate Coali­tion, which NPI is a sup­port­er of.

Jes­si­ca Jan­ner Cas­tro of KING 5 News, Michelle Este­ban of KOMO News, Scott Lead­ing­ham (NWPB News Man­ag­er) and TVW’s Mike McCla­hanan will moderate.

The debate can be seen here begin­ning at 8 PM Pacif­ic.

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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