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.

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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.

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.



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.

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.”

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.

A police officer who was bitten in the genitals by a police dog is not entitled to sue for damages without first proving negligence. That was the decision Thursday from a narrowly divided Washington Supreme Court.

A political tornado is swirling toward western Washington's 30th Legislative District. It’s swallowing up money from political action committees and pummeling voters and the candidates with attack ads.

And the path the twister takes could determine control of the Washington state House.

The floodgates have opened on negative campaign spending in Washington state. Just since October 1, more than $800,000 has been spent -- mostly to defeat candidates for the state legislature.

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.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Northwest Republicans are denouncing and in some cases distancing themselves from Donald Trump because of his lewd comments about women. But not all.

Washington’s Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant has unveiled his first TV ad of the general election. It comes the same week Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee hit the airwaves with his first ad.

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.

It’s not just President Obama who’s had his citizenship questioned. So has Washington’s Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, Cyrus Habib. It happened at a pro-gun rally last weekend and Democrats posted the video to YouTube.

Washington’s troubled Western State Hospital has been plagued by ineffective management, staff reductions and turnover. That’s according to a “root cause analysis” report released Thursday.

Washington’s troubled Western State Hospital has been plagued by ineffective management, staff reductions and turnover. That’s according to a “root cause analysis” report released Thursday.

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.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network


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.

TVW / Northwest News Network

The head of Washington’s training academy for police officers says she’s open to changing the state’s deadly force law. Current law protects officers from prosecution unless they act in bad faith and with malice.

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.

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.

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.