Austin Jenkins

Olympia Correspondent

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Ways to Connect

Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Bill Gates, and Steve and Connie Ballmer are among a growing list of wealthy Washingtonians who want to change the makeup of Washington’s Supreme Court. They are the top donors to a new political action committee called Citizens for Working Courts.

Washington’s race for governor is a lopsided affair. Incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee has a three-to-one fundraising advantage over Republican challenger Bill Bryant. And polls show Inslee with a 10 point lead.

But that’s not stopping Bryant from trying to make the campaign a referendum on Inslee’s leadership.

A trio of wealthy Washingtonians has just put $350,000 into an effort to defeat a sitting state Supreme Court justice. Their target is Charlie Wiggins who’s been on the court since 2011.

Gun rights and gun control advocates are reacting to the first prosecution under Washington’s Initiative 594, the 2014 law that requires a background check for person-to-person gun sales.

The case involves a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident named Mark Mercado who allegedly gave or sold a .22-caliber pistol to an acquaintance last November. Prosecutors said that gun was then used a day later in the murder of 17-year-old John Skyler Johnson, known as “Jay.”

The race for Washington lands commissioner pits an environmental lawyer against a supporter of two imprisoned Oregon ranchers. Both candidates are relatively unknown to voters.

In what’s believed to be the first prosecution under a 2014 voter-approved background check law, a former Oak Harbor, Washington, resident has been charged with illegally transferring a .22-caliber pistol that was later used in a homicide.

The practice of automatically charging 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for serious crimes is coming under scrutiny. The issue will come up Monday at a youth justice conference in Seattle and Tuesday during a Washington Supreme Court hearing.

If you live in western Washington, chances are you get your power or your natural gas or both from Puget Sound Energy. The state’s largest utility company serves more than a million customers in 10 counties.

But it’s not just energy that PSE trades in. The company also helps power campaigns and elections in Washington through political contributions.

This year, a pair of wealthy southwest Washington businessmen have emerged as major donors to state Republicans. Billionaire investor Ken Fisher and developer Clyde Holland are stepping up their contributions as control of the Washington legislature hangs in the balance.

Some Northwest Republicans are denouncing and in some cases distancing themselves from Donald Trump because of his lewd comments about women.

But not all.

The Service Employees International Union has invested more than $1 million in trying to help Democrats win control of the Washington legislature this year. That makes SEIU the single largest donor on the Democratic side.

So what does the union want in return for its investment?

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he takes responsibility for his office’s failure to preserve emails related to the deadly 2014 Oso landslide. The Democrat issued a statement Tuesday after a judge vowed to impose a “significant monetary sanction” over the deleted emails.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is on the air with his first TV ad of the general election. His Republican challenger Bill Bryant hopes to hit the airwaves soon -- but money is an issue.

There’s a lot of talk about “dark money” in politics these days. That’s money raised and spent by so-called “social welfare” organizations that don’t have to disclose their donors.

But sometimes these groups will reveal who’s giving them money -- if you ask.

In their second debate, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee and his Republican challenger Bill Bryant sparred over taxes, education funding, transportation and the state’s response to homelessness.

But in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting at Cascade Mall in Skagit County, gun violence was the first issue the candidates were asked to address.

Gun rights advocates say Friday night's deadly shooting at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Washington is an example of why law-abiding citizens should consider arming themselves and why malls and businesses shouldn't ban firearms on the premises.

Washington’s largest labor organization has agreed to a $26,000 fine for past campaign finance violations. The attorney general’s office announced the penalty Friday against the Washington State Labor Council.

Lobbyists play a key role in political fundraising. Just consider the invitation to a fundraiser Wednesday night for the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the Washington state House.


It’s been 44 years since Washington voters approved an initiative to require the disclosure of campaign contributions – and 24 years since voters enacted limits on campaign donations. Now comes a proposal to update those laws and usher in a new era of publicly-financed elections.

Initiative 1464 on the November ballot is a 23-page rewrite of the laws governing political campaigns in Washington.

If you thought the battle over pornography ended with The People vs. Larry Flynt, think again. Utah has taken the step of declaring pornography a public health threat much like tobacco. And now it’s on the agenda in Washington state.

Sponsors of Initiative 1464 on Washington’s fall ballot say they’re trying to limit big money influence on Washington politics. The initiative is a 23-page overhaul of Washington’s campaign finance and lobbying laws.

Washington’s Republican candidate for governor said he supports raising the minimum wage in some parts of the state -- but not everywhere. Bill Bryant outlined his position Tuesday in a jobs and economy speech to the Association of Washington Business Policy Summit at the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum.

Former CEO of Washington’s Western State Hospital Ron Adler was publicly fired as head of the troubled state psychiatric hospital by Gov Jay Inslee earlier this year after the escape and recapture of two high-risk patients. But Adler continued working for the state.

Former CEO of Washington’s Western State Hospital Ron Adler was publicly fired as head of the troubled state psychiatric hospital by Gov Jay Inslee earlier this year after the escape and recapture of two high-risk patients. But Adler continued working for the state.

After five terms in office, Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is retiring. The two candidates running to replace him don’t see eye-to-eye over the proper role of the lieutenant governor.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley was back in federal court Friday. He’s facing a second trial next year for charges related to his past real estate services business. His first trial ended with the jury acquitting him of making a false statement to the IRS but deadlocked on all other counts.

It was nearly a decade ago that the McCleary family sued the state of Washington over school funding. In the years since, the state Supreme Court has sided with the family, found the state in contempt of court and imposed a $100,000 per day fine.

Just as the school year begins, the Washington state Supreme Court will get an update Wednesday on school funding efforts in the state legislature. Tuesday, a panel of lawmakers got an earful.

Lobbyists are paid to try to influence legislation. One way they build relationships with lawmakers is by hosting political fundraisers. And that’s happening a lot this election season with lobbyists for business, labor and other interests.

The ongoing fight over school funding in Washington state is heading back to court. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday before the Washington Supreme Court.