Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kris Reykdal is facing a much tougher battle than many in Olympia first thought from challenger Maia Espinoza.

During the primary, Espinoza and West Richland's Ron Higgins nearly split the GOP vote, with Espinoza getting 29 percent and Higgins 20. However incumbent Reykdal got 'only' 40 percent, by far the worst showing of any major incumbent state leader.

Many strategists have said if you combine the GOP numbers, Reykdal would have lost the general 49-40 percent. It is not known how many of Higgin's supporters will directly vote for Espinoza in the general, but political observers were quick to say it exposed the vulnerability of Reykdal.

The two have battled back and forth, even in and out of court, over language in Espinoza's voters pamphlet. The State Supreme Court upheld Espinoza's claim that Reykdal's 'favored' sex ex curriculum would teach "sexual positions to 4th graders."

Now a new campaign mailer from Reykdal is drawing criticism for racist overtones. The flyer shows a darkened black and white photo of Espinoza, who is Hispanic, and it include multi-racial (white tan brown) thumbs emoticons when rating Reykdal's performance.

Jason Rantz of KTTH AM in Seattle and some others point out a similar 'darkening' photo and artwork was used against a black female candidate who was running for State Senate in the August primary. T'wina Nobles was featured in a black and white photo, while her opponent was full color. NPR-KUOW Radio in Seattle condemned this as racist. 

However, Rantz and others including Espinoza's campaign, say nothing has been said about the mailer, which went out earlier this week. Espinoza's campaign manager Monica Marchetti released the following statement about the mailer:

“The darkening of Maia and use of apparently multi-racial emojis is clearly out of touch, especially from the head of our state’s schools and teacher’s union. The message it sends to our students about the use of racially charged rhetoric and images is appalling.”

This was the ad sent out this week by SPI Reykdal (SPI Mailer ad)