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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Lawyers for victims of the deadly 2014 Oso landslide say the state of Washington has engaged in a “shocking” cover-up to hide evidence. The allegation, first reported by The Seattle Times, comes just five weeks before the state goes on trial.

Unionized teachers and Realtors boast the largest political action committees in Washington state this election year. Both PACs have raised more than $2 million.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he’s disappointed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's decision not to reclassify marijuana. In a letter Thursday, the DEA said marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug for now.

It’s been 18 years since Republicans last controlled both chambers of the Washington legislature. They’re hoping 2016 is the year they can reclaim the majority. But that will require holding on to their narrow grip on the state Senate and flipping the Washington House -- something Democrats are determined not to let happen.

Washington Republicans are working hard this election cycle to hold onto their slim majority in the state Senate. And they’re getting some help from a new political action committee set up by the debt collection industry.

When you sink $40 million into a state-of-the art digital two-way radio system, you don’t expect to hear complaints. But delays, dead air and garbled transmissions have bedeviled a new Washington State Patrol radio system.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump plans to return to Washington and Oregon at the end this month. The Washington Post reports Trump will hold high dollar fundraisers in Portland and Seattle as part of a west coast swing. He’s also expected to hold public events.

Thirty-seven new Washington State Patrol troopers graduated Wednesday during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Olympia. But they’re only making a dent in a big trooper shortage.

In a political year that's favored outsiders, two incumbent Democrats posted healthy showings over their Republican challengers in Washington's Tuesday primary.

What does a southwest Washington billionaire have in common with the former majority leader of the Washington Senate? They’ve teamed in an effort to unseat the chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court.

Embattled Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is not seeking re-election. Five candidates are running in the August 2 primary to replace him and restoring trust in the office is a recurring theme of the campaigns.

Nine candidates are vying to replace outgoing Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. The results of the August 2 primary will pare that list down to two finalists for the non-partisan job.

Historic forest fires. The Oso landslide. Global warming. These are among the issues in the race for Washington Commissioner of Public Lands. The position oversees state trust lands that generate money for schools.

The commissioner must also navigate a constant tension between the timber industry and environmentalists.

The political spotlight this week is on the Republican convention in Cleveland. Next week it will move to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. But Washington voters have a political homework assignment that has nothing to do with the conventions -- and it’s due August 2.

The police force in Washington’s state capital is changing. Fourteen months ago a white police officer in Olympia shot two African-American brothers. The shooting triggered local protests, but not a national outcry -- the brothers survived, although one was paralyzed.

A group of climate activists is fasting on the steps of the Washington state Capitol this week as part of a protest against Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed cap on carbon emissions. The activists say the cap doesn’t go far enough.

The recent police shootings of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota have reignited the debate over use of deadly force. That was on the mind of a black community leader in Washington state as she strapped on a gun belt and took aim inside a state-of-the-art training simulator for police.

At the Washington State Patrol Academy in Shelton, Corporal Lori Hinds guides a pair of visitors into what looks like a walk-in video game. Inside five, large video screens form a 300-degree computer-generated environment.

Washington voters will likely decide in November whether to raise the state minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick leave. Backers of the Raise Up Washington campaign say they will submit more than 360,000 signatures Wednesday -- virtually guaranteeing it a spot on the fall ballot.

The end is near for a veteran-owned medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Olympia. It’s a casualty of the state merging recreational and medical marijuana.

“Do you believe guns in the home make you less safe?”

“Who do you believe should legally be allowed to carry a concealed pistol on college campuses?”

Those are the kinds of questions political candidates are getting this year from gun control and gun rights groups.

Washington Democrats are gathering this weekend in Tacoma for their state convention. Just like with the state Republican convention in Pasco last month, Democrats are a party divided. Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee. But Bernie Sanders supporters represent the majority of delegates.

Washington state Democrats are confident they will avoid a Nevada-like meltdown at their state convention this weekend. Nevada’s Democratic convention devolved into chaos after Bernie Sanders supporters felt the process was rigged.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

The rainbow pride flag was raised over the Washington state Capitol  Wednesday. It was then immediately lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims of last weekend’s mass shooting in Orlando. 

AUSTIN JENKINS / Northwest News Network

Parachutes and MASH tents might be the Northwest’s best hope in the face of a 9.0 earthquake and coastal tsunami. This week emergency responders in Washington, Oregon and Idaho are practicing for a subduction zone quake.

Planes and parachutes might be the best bet for getting supplies to cut-off areas in the event of a subduction zone earthquake. National Guard pilots and paratroopers practiced supply drops and parachute jumps Thursday.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants oil trains to slow down and safety improvements to speed up. Inslee said Wednesday that he personally delivered that message to the CEO of Union Pacific and the executive chairman of BNSF over the last 48 hours.

Friday’s oil train derailment and fire comes as Washington state prepares to put new oil shipment safety rules into effect. In fact, the derailment in the Columbia Gorge happened just as the first public hearing on those rules was wrapping up in Vancouver, Washington.

Washington’s troubled Western State Hospital won’t lose nearly $50 million in federal funding -- for now. On Friday morning, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a 13-month turnaround agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Federal prosecutors say they intend to retry Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley after his first trial ended in April with the jury voting to acquit on one count and deadlocked on 14 others.

Lead prosecutor Andrew Friedman revealed the government’s intentions at a Tuesday morning status conference in the case at the federal courthouse in Tacoma. District Judge Ronald Leighton set a March 13, 2017 trial date.

Last month, a federal jury acquitted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley of lying to IRS agents, but deadlocked on 14 other charges related to his past real estate services business. Kelley will be back in court on Tuesday when a hearing could provide an answer to what happens next in the case.

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