NPI poll finding: 2024 gubernatorial race hypothetical field
Visualization of NPI's March 2023 gubernatorial poll finding, with a hypothetical field of four candidates (Northwest Progressive Institute)

Should Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee decide against seek­ing an unprece­dent­ed fourth term lat­er this year, Repub­li­can Pierce Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Bruce Dammeier and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son would be the two lead­ing can­di­dates to suc­ceed him in a hypo­thet­i­cal field that also includ­ed King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine (D) and Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz (D), a poll recent­ly con­duct­ed for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute has found.

35% of 874 like­ly 2024 gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers inter­viewed from March 7th-8th for NPI by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling said they’d back Dammeier if the elec­tion were being held today, while 21% said they’d pick Fer­gu­son. 7% said Con­stan­tine and anoth­er 7% said Franz. A total of 30% were not sure, a fig­ure that exceeds the sup­port of each of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates, though not all of them combined.

NPI poll finding: 2024 gubernatorial race hypothetical field
Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s March 2023 guber­na­to­r­i­al poll find­ing, with a hypo­thet­i­cal field of four can­di­dates (North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute)

The results sug­gest that Fer­gu­son would have the advan­tage at the out­set of a 2024 guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign among the three top Demo­c­ra­t­ic office­hold­ers in the state known to be inter­est­ed in the job, but also indi­cates that there could be an open­ing for either Franz or Con­stan­tine to wage a com­pet­i­tive cam­paign, par­tic­u­lar­ly if one of them decid­ed to for­go run­ning, result­ing in just two cred­i­ble Democ­rats com­pet­ing for time, tal­ent, trea­sure, and votes in the elim­i­na­tion round.

Dammeier’s 35% per­cent­age is pret­ty much what we thought we’d most like­ly see. In head-to-head ques­tions in our statewide polling, we usu­al­ly see declared or hypo­thet­i­cal Repub­li­can can­di­dates in the mid to upper thirties.

This range has been fair­ly steady since the tumul­tuous 2016 elec­tion. Three exam­ples: Susan Hutchi­son polled at 36% in May of 2018, Don­ald Trump polled at 37% in Octo­ber of 2019, and Tiffany Smi­ley polled at 37% in May of 2021.

Repub­li­cans have not won a guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion in Wash­ing­ton since 1980, and, aside from a long string of vic­to­ries for Sec­re­tary of State that end­ed last year, have won only a hand­ful of down­bal­lot exec­u­tive con­tests since 2000. They’ve also been reduced to just two seats in the state’s twelve-mem­ber con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion, leav­ing them with a thin bench, in stark con­trast to the Democrats.

Giv­en Wash­ing­ton’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic ori­en­ta­tion, most of the action for gov­er­nor will be on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side, again assum­ing Inslee retires. But the Repub­li­cans can be count­ed upon to field some­body, which is why we put togeth­er a ques­tion that includ­ed a hypo­thet­i­cal Repub­li­can can­di­date as well as the three Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates. Here’s the text of our ques­tion and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION (VERSION A): If the 2024 Top Two elec­tion for Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State were being held today and the can­di­dates were Demo­c­rat Hilary Franz, Repub­li­can Bruce Dammeier, Demo­c­rat Dow Con­stan­tine, and Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, who would you vote for?

Half the poll sam­ple saw the ques­tion with the order of can­di­dates as shown above and half the sam­ple saw the ques­tion with the order of can­di­dates shown below. The word­ing was the same, but the order was invert­ed to make the ques­tion as neu­tral as possible. 

QUESTION (VERSION B): If the 2024 Top Two elec­tion for Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State were being held today and the can­di­dates were Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, Demo­c­rat Dow Con­stan­tine, Repub­li­can Bruce Dammeier, and Demo­c­rat Hilary Franz, who would you vote for?


  • Repub­li­can Bruce Dammeier: 35%
  • Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son: 21%
  • Demo­c­rat Hilary Franz: 7%
  • Demo­c­rat Dow Con­stan­tine: 7%
  • Not sure: 30%

Our sur­vey of 874 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, March 7th through Wednes­day, March 8th, 2023.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and online answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling (PPP) for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

NPI and PPP have worked togeth­er for a decade and have a track record of excel­lence, as detailed in this 2022 elec­toral polling recap and this 2020 one.

Most vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton iden­ti­fy either as Demo­c­ra­t­ic or inde­pen­dent, and as you might expect, giv­en a choice of three Democ­rats for an impor­tant office, large num­bers were unde­cid­ed. One in three Democ­rats (33%) said they were not sure, with 39% back­ing Fer­gu­son and Franz and Con­stan­tine get­ting 12% each. 42% of inde­pen­dent vot­ers were also not sure. 33% of inde­pen­dents said they’d back Dammeier, while 12% picked Fer­gu­son, 8% Con­stan­tine, and 5% Franz.

Repub­li­cans eas­i­ly lined up behind Dammeier — as men­tioned, the only Repub­li­can option. 84% of them backed Dammeier and 11% were not sure. 3% said they’d sup­port Fer­gu­son; 1% said Franz, and anoth­er 1% said Con­stan­tine, for a total of 5% of Repub­li­can vot­ers will­ing to back a Demo­c­rat. That match­es the num­ber of Democ­rats who said they were for Dammeier — 5%.

Region­al­ly, here’s how the dynam­ics break down:

  • King Coun­ty: This is the most Demo­c­ra­t­ic part of Wash­ing­ton State — it’s a blue bas­tion. Con­stan­tine did twice as well (14%) in the King Coun­ty sub­sam­ple of our poll as in the over­all sam­ple, but Fer­gu­son still was the top Demo­c­rat in Wash­ing­ton’s most pop­u­lous coun­ty with 20%. Franz, mean­while, got 10%. The per­cent­age of not sure vot­ers was 38%. Dammeier only got 18% among our King Coun­ty respondents.
  • North Puget Sound: This area usu­al­ly votes Demo­c­ra­t­ic, espe­cial­ly in top of the tick­et con­tests. Dammeier fared rea­son­ably well in this region. He received 40% sup­port there, while Fer­gu­son received 20%. Con­stan­tine received 8% and Franz 7%, sim­i­lar to their statewide num­bers. 25% were not sure, a low­er fig­ure than the statewide percentage.
  • South Sound: This is Dammeier’s home turf (it includes Pierce Coun­ty), but a lit­tle sur­pris­ing­ly, his num­ber there is mere­ly the same as his statewide per­cent­age — 35%. Fer­gu­son, mean­while, was very com­pet­i­tive, clock­ing in at 31%, his best show­ing in any region of the state. He seems to have seri­ous strength in the South Sound. Con­stan­tine and Franz received just 2% each. 30% said that they were not sure, match­ing the statewide percentage.
  • Olympic Penin­su­la and South­west Wash­ing­ton: This is swing turf for both par­ties. Democ­rats have held onto the 24th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict in recent elec­tions while Repub­li­cans have tak­en the 19th. The Democ­rats man­aged to flip the 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict last year in a major vic­to­ry. Fer­gu­son received 15% in this region, while Con­stan­tine and Franz each got 8%. Dammeier received 42%. 27% were not sure.
  • East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton: This is the most Repub­li­can part of Wash­ing­ton State by far, and accord­ing­ly, a major­i­ty of like­ly vot­ers favor Dammeier. He received 50% sup­port, while Fer­gu­son received 18%. Con­stan­tine received 1% and Franz 4%. 27% were not sure.

Notes and caveats about our question and the finding

It’s impor­tant to remem­ber this ques­tion asked vot­ers about a hypo­thet­i­cal field, one that does­n’t exist now and may nev­er exist. Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee has­n’t made or announced a deci­sion about run­ning again and none of these four elect­ed offi­cials has launched a cam­paign. It is pos­si­ble that some of them won’t run — it’s even pos­si­ble that none of them will run. We don’t know the future and don’t pre­tend to, so I won’t offer any pre­dic­tions. There’s many plau­si­ble scenarios.

Our intent with this ques­tion was to have fun explor­ing some of the poten­tial dynam­ics of a land­scape in which Gov­er­nor Inslee does­n’t seek reelection.

We only includ­ed cred­i­ble poten­tial can­di­dates in our ques­tion because it isn’t fea­si­ble or worth­while to ask vot­ers about dozens of pos­si­bil­i­ties in a sur­vey. There were thir­ty-six can­di­dates (yes, three dozen!) for Gov­er­nor in the August 2020 Top Two elec­tion and most of them did not receive even 1% of the vote.

Fer­gu­son, Con­stan­tine, and Franz have all pre­vi­ous­ly expressed inter­est in run­ning for gov­er­nor, are unques­tion­ably qual­i­fied for the office, and have demon­strat­ed they can raise the resources need­ed to com­pete statewide. Fer­gu­son and Franz have also each won con­sec­u­tive statewide elec­tions for oth­er posi­tions in the exec­u­tive depart­ment — Attor­ney Gen­er­al and Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands.

Dammeier, mean­while, is the most cred­i­ble Repub­li­can can­di­date our team could think of (we want­ed a cred­i­ble Repub­li­can to go with the three cred­i­ble Democ­rats in the ques­tion). He’s in charge of the sec­ond largest coun­ty in the state and would run a much more seri­ous cam­paign than a grifter like Loren Culp or Tim Eyman if he chose to enter the race. Pierce Coun­ty has term lim­its, so Dammeier can­not run again for Exec­u­tive next year. He could run for gov­er­nor, though!

Future polling plans

In our spring sea­son­al sur­vey, we’ll take anoth­er look at the guber­na­to­r­i­al race and bring you a new find­ing. It is pos­si­ble by that point that Gov­er­nor Inslee will have announced his plans, but it’s also pos­si­ble he won’t have. His most recent two pre­de­ces­sors wait­ed until June and July to offi­cial­ly announce that they had decid­ed to retire. Chris Gre­goire’s retire­ment announce­ment was made pub­lic on June 13th, 2011; Gary Locke announced his retire­ment on July 21st, 2003.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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