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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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.

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.

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 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.

“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.

Life in prison is no picnic. But imagine being blind or deaf or in a wheelchair behind bars.

A new report out Wednesday says state prison systems should be doing more to accommodate disabled inmates.

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.

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.

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.

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.

There was a rumor a few weeks ago that Bernie Sanders was going to skydive into a rally in California. He didn’t end up doing that.

But recently two candidates for office in Washington state did jump out of an airplane. It was for a campaign kickoff event at the Shelton airport for Republican state Rep. Drew MacEwen. And he had a special guest in Republican candidate for governor Bill Bryant.

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.

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.

It’s been five months since Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that over a 13-year period nearly 3,000 prison inmates were accidentally released early. Wednesday, Washington Senate Republicans issued a 66-page report that places significant blame for the problem not being fixed on former corrections Secretary Bernie Warner.

The highly-organized Washington campaign for Ted Cruz all but swept the delegate elections at the state GOP convention in Pasco over the weekend.

That means Cruz backers will dominate Washington state’s delegation to the Republican national convention in Cleveland this July, although they’ll be bound on the first ballot based on the outcome of Washington's presidential primary on Tuesday.

Washington Republicans will meet in the Tri-Cities Friday to select delegates to this summer’s national convention in Cleveland. They are describing this year’s presidential campaign as “a Reagan restart” and “an outsider’s election.”

Washington Republicans will ultimately coalesce around Donald Trump as the apparent presidential nominee. That’s the prediction of state Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison as her party gathers Wednesday for its state convention in the Tri-Cities.

‘Tis the season for campaign fundraising. That means candidates are dialing for cash and hosting at all manner of events to bring in the money. Some of them tried and true approaches and some a bit more novel.

A University of Washington study concluded about 30 football fields worth of marijuana are needed to serve the medical marijuana market in Washington. That translates to about two million square feet of canopy.

Currently, more than 12 million square feet are approved for production.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is back on the job after his federal criminal trial. And he’s firing back at Gov. Jay Inslee.

Last week Kelley asked for the resignation of his chief of staff and chief spokesman. Inslee demanded an explanation for the firings. Now Kelley has responded.

Drivers on Interstate 90 through eastern Washington won’t be able to legally go 75 miles per hour. That was the announcement Wednesday from the Washington Department of Transportation, the State Patrol and the state’s Traffic Safety Commission.

When apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump did a pre-primary campaign swing through the Northwest last weekend, he hopped between Eugene, Spokane and Bellingham aboard a Boeing 757 emblazoned with the word TRUMP in capital letters.

What do Realtors, teachers and unionized plumbers have in common?

According to Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, these groups control the top political action committees in the state so far this year. So what exactly are they after?

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is demanding a formal explanation after State Auditor Troy Kelley asked two top staff members to resign and put a third on administrative leave. The shake-up follows Kelley’s full-time return to the office after his six-week federal trial.

If an Idaho state trooper stops an Idaho driver just across the Washington state line and a lawsuit ensues—whose case is it? The Washington Supreme Court Thursday said it’s basically a legal coin toss. 

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