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Friday, June 9th, 2023

Attorney General Bob Ferguson leads 2024 WA gubernatorial field, new NPI poll confirms

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son is the cur­rent fron­trun­ner in the increas­ing­ly crowd­ed con­test to suc­ceed out­go­ing Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee as Wash­ing­ton State’s next chief exec­u­tive, a new poll con­duct­ed this week for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling has confirmed.

25% of 773 respon­dents inter­viewed June 7th and 8th for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute said that they pre­ferred Fer­gu­son for Governor.

17% said they favored Repub­li­can Raul Gar­cia. 10% say they’d vote for ultra MAGA Repub­li­can Semi Bird. 9% said they pre­ferred anoth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tender: Hilary Franz, the cur­rent Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands. Anoth­er 7% back a third Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date, State Sen­a­tor Mark Mullet.

33% of respon­dents said they were not sure.

NPI poll finding: 2024 Washington State gubernatorial race as of June 2023

Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s June 2023 guber­na­to­r­i­al poll find­ing, which asked respon­dents about a field of five declared can­di­dates (North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute)

In NPI’s last sea­son­al sur­vey, which field­ed in March, we asked 874 respon­dents, also a group of like­ly 2024 vot­ers, to react to a hypo­thet­i­cal field of can­di­dates for gov­er­nor. That group includ­ed Fer­gu­son and Franz along with two coun­ty exec­u­tives who have tak­en them­selves out of the run­ning: King Coun­ty’s Dow Con­stan­tine, a Demo­c­rat, and Pierce Coun­ty’s Bruce Dammeier, a Republican.

Fer­gu­son was the lead­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date in that sur­vey, with 21%, while Repub­li­can vot­ers grav­i­tat­ed to Dammeier, the only option we gave them.

When that poll field­ed, we did­n’t know what Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s plans for 2024 were, which was why we asked about a hypo­thet­i­cal field of candidates.

Now we know that Inslee plans to pass the torch. Wash­ing­to­ni­ans will be pick­ing a new gov­er­nor next year. It’s an excit­ing time in state politics.

A lot of peo­ple have either said they’re run­ning for gov­er­nor or are think­ing about doing so. A poll that asked about dozens of declared or poten­tial obscure can­di­dates would­n’t yield use­ful data, so we came up with a set of cri­te­ria to deter­mine which can­di­dates to include. Those cri­te­ria are as follows:

  • Must be an offi­cial­ly declared can­di­date for the office who has filed a C1 with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion (PDC)
  • Must have declared an affil­i­a­tion with a major par­ty (the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty or the Repub­li­can Party)
  • Must have report­ed rais­ing at least $50,000 in ear­ly mon­ey for their cur­rent guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign or have pre­vi­ous­ly raised at least $250,000 in a pri­or cam­paign for any state-lev­el office, or both

Sev­en­teen peo­ple have filed for gov­er­nor in 2024 with the PDC thus far, meet­ing the first of our cri­te­ria. Of those sev­en­teen, fif­teen have iden­ti­fied them­selves as Democ­rats or Repub­li­cans, meet­ing the sec­ond of our criteria.

Of those fif­teen, only five have either raised at least $50,000 already or pre­vi­ous­ly raised a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars in a cam­paign for state lev­el office. The five who made the cut are Fer­gu­son, Franz, Mul­let, Gar­cia, and Bird.

As men­tioned, Fer­gu­son is the cur­rent Attor­ney Gen­er­al, Franz is Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands, and Mul­let is a state sen­a­tor from the 5th. Raul Gar­cia is a doc­tor and pre­vi­ous guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date (2020). Bird is a Rich­land school board mem­ber who calls him­self a Black con­sti­tu­tion­al Chris­t­ian conservative.

Here’s the exact text of the ques­tions we posed and the answers we received:

QUESTION (VERSION A): If the 2024 Top Two elec­tion for Gov­er­nor were being held today, would you vote for Demo­c­rat Hilary Franz, Repub­li­can Semi Bird, Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, Repub­li­can Raul Gar­cia, or Demo­c­rat Mark Mullet?

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 were being held today, would you vote for Demo­c­rat Mark Mul­let, Repub­li­can Raul Gar­cia, Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son, Repub­li­can Semi Bird, or Demo­c­rat Hilary Franz?

ANSWERS:

  • Demo­c­rat Bob Fer­gu­son: 25%
  • Repub­li­can Raul Gar­cia: 17%
  • Repub­li­can Semi Bird: 10%
  • Demo­c­rat Hilary Franz: 9%
  • Demo­c­rat Mark Mul­let: 7%
  • Not sure: 33%

Our sur­vey of 773 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, June 7th through Thurs­day, June 8th, 2023.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (41%) and online answers from cell phone only respon­dents (59%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling (PPP) for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.5% 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.

Topline analysis

As men­tioned, Fer­gu­son is the clear ear­ly fron­trun­ner for Governor.

Since our last statewide poll at about this time in March, which looked at a hypo­thet­i­cal field that includ­ed him, Hilary Franz, Dow Con­stan­tine, and Bruce Dammeier, his sup­port has gone up, from 21% then to 25% now.

That’s a pos­i­tive sign for his can­di­da­cy. Franz also saw a bump, albeit a very slight one: she went from 7% in March to 9% this time around.

Mul­let’s 7% is the same num­ber that Franz and Con­stan­tine were both at in March. Mul­let’s path to vic­to­ry looks awful­ly steep, espe­cial­ly with Repub­li­can Raul Gar­cia in the race. Gar­cia is the oth­er win­ner in our survey.

Despite not hav­ing got­ten far in his last cam­paign in 2020, Gar­ci­a’s can­di­da­cy seems to be res­onat­ing. Repub­li­can and inde­pen­dent vot­ers like him more than Semi Bird, who has been in the race longer and has raised more money.

If the par­ty and Repub­li­can vot­ers decide to ral­ly behind Gar­cia, our team can see him con­sol­i­dat­ing enough sup­port to secure one of those top two spots, leav­ing only one spot for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date, which our research sug­gests would be Fer­gu­son. For Mul­let or Franz to become gov­er­nor, they’d like­ly need to make the runoff bal­lot in a Demo­c­rat-on-Demo­c­rat con­test and be Fer­gu­son’s oppo­nent, then man­age to reel in more votes than Fer­gu­son in that final head-to-head.

It’s going to be excep­tion­al­ly dif­fi­cult for either of them to get more votes than Fer­gu­son in the elim­i­na­tion round to make that runoff. Fer­gu­son will have have plen­ty of mon­ey to work with as the fron­trun­ner, and he’s bet­ter posi­tioned out of the gate than any­one else to lock down addi­tion­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic support.

Breakdown by party

In this poll, 42% of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers back Fer­gu­son, while 16% back Franz and 10% back Mul­let. 27% are not sure. 2% of self-iden­ti­fied Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers back Semi Bird; anoth­er 2% back Raul Garcia.

On the oth­er side of the divide: 40% of Repub­li­can vot­ers like Gar­cia; 24% are for Bird. 33% of Repub­li­can vot­ers aren’t sure who they’re vot­ing for. Fer­gu­son and Franz each got 1% from self-iden­ti­fied Repub­li­cans; Mul­let got 2%.

There’s real­ly not a dif­fer­ence there.

If you’re a Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date in this race, you’re going to find it real­ly hard to win over Repub­li­can vot­ers to your side, even if you say you’ll take a hard line on tax increas­es, which is what Mul­let is say­ing he’ll do.

Inde­pen­dents are the most unde­cid­ed group. Two-fifths of them (40%) aren’t sure. 20% back Fer­gu­son, and 17% back Gar­cia. 9% of inde­pen­dent vot­ers backed Bird, 8% backed Franz, and 6% backed Mullet.

Inde­pen­dents are an ide­o­log­i­cal­ly het­ero­ge­neous group, lack­ing con­sis­ten­cy in their val­ues and prin­ci­ples, so it isn’t sur­pris­ing to see splits like this.

It is note­wor­thy that Gar­cia has about three times the amount of sup­port among inde­pen­dent vot­ers that Mul­let does at this point.

The Repub­li­can-lean­ing inde­pen­dent vot­ers in our sam­ple had the option of pick­ing Mul­let, a Demo­c­rat who says he’s a mid­dle of the road guy who can beat Fer­gu­son, but they went with Gar­cia. Fascinating.

Breakdown by region

Here’s who each region prefers for governor:

  • King Coun­ty
    • Bob Fer­gu­son: 29%
    • Hilary Franz: 13%
    • Mark Mul­let: 11%
    • Raul Gar­cia: 9%
    • Semi Bird: 5%
    • Not sure: 33%
  • North Puget Sound
    • Bob Fer­gu­son: 33%
    • Raul Gar­cia: 16%
    • Hilary Franz: 9%
    • Semi Bird: 8%
    • Mark Mul­let: 2%
    • Not sure: 33%
  • South Sound
    • Bob Fer­gu­son: 24%
    • Raul Gar­cia: 13%
    • Semi Bird: 11%
    • Hilary Franz: 9%
    • Mark Mul­let: 7%
    • Not sure: 36%
  • Olympic Penin­su­la and South­west Washington
    • Raul Gar­cia: 18%
    • Bob Fer­gu­son: 17%
    • Semi Bird: 11%
    • Hilary Franz: 10%
    • Mark Mul­let: 9%
    • Not sure: 35%
  • East­ern and Cen­tral Washington
    • Raul Gar­cia: 31%
    • Semi Bird: 18%
    • Bob Fer­gu­son: 16%
    • Hilary Franz: 5%
    • Mark Mul­let: 2%
    • Not sure: 29%

Fer­gu­son leads in the Puget Sound / I‑5 cor­ri­dor and is tied with Gar­cia in rur­al West­ern Wash­ing­ton. Gar­cia leads in East­ern and Cen­tral Washington.

Breakdown by gender

A plu­ral­i­ty of vot­ers who iden­ti­fy as female pre­fer Fer­gu­son: 29%. Gar­cia came in sec­ond with female vot­ers, at 15%. Vot­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as male were more split. 19% said they pre­ferred Fer­gu­son. Anoth­er 19% said Garcia.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Vot­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as female

  • Bob Fer­gu­son: 28%
  • Raul Gar­cia: 15%
  • Hilary Franz: 9%
  • Semi Bird: 7%
  • Mark Mul­let: 6%
  • Not sure: 34%

Vot­ers iden­ti­fy­ing as male

  • Bob Fer­gu­son: 19%
  • Raul Gar­cia: 19%
  • Semi Bird: 13%
  • Hilary Franz: 10%
  • Mark Mul­let: 7%
  • Not sure: 33%

Franz, the only female can­di­date in the sur­vey, actu­al­ly did a tiny bit bet­ter with male vot­ers than female vot­ers. It’s a sym­bol­ic, not sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence, but empha­sizes that female vot­ers just aren’t lin­ing up behind Franz.

More gubernatorial polling coming in late 2023

We will take anoth­er look at the con­test again in the autumn. For now, it’s real­ly great to have this fresh data. Read­ers, feel free to leave a com­ment if you have a ques­tion about our research, or send us a mes­sage through our con­tact form.

If you appre­ci­ate our cred­i­ble and rig­or­ous research and want it to con­tin­ue, please con­sid­er becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute. Mem­bers pow­er NPI’s work and enable us to pro­vide sound data to the public.

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2 Pings

  1. […] A Reichert can­di­da­cy would real­ly shake up the cur­rent guber­na­to­r­i­al field. Reichert is well known and would be very well posi­tioned to secure one of those top two spots next year along with Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, who cur­rent­ly leads the field accord­ing to our June elec­toral research. […]

  2. […] Last month, NPI’s research showed that Gar­cia was the ear­ly Repub­li­can fron­trun­ner. He gar­nered 17% in response to a ques­tion about vot­ers’ pref­er­ences for gov­er­nor, sec­ond to Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, who led the field with 25%. Anoth­er Repub­li­can, Semi Bird, got 10% in the survey. […]

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