Attorney General and gubernatorial hopeful Bob Ferguson addresses a large crowd at his third kickoff rally in Seattle, Washington, on Saturday, September 9th, 2023 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

At a series of events today in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Seat­tle, Demo­c­ra­t­ic Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son affirmed that’s he run­ning for gov­er­nor after a thir­ty-nine coun­ty tour and detailed his vision for Wash­ing­ton State’s future.

The third of those events, held at Wash­ing­ton Hall on 14th Avenue in the Emer­ald City, fea­tured a star-stud­ded line­up of endorsers: Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal, Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, for­mer Gov­er­nor Chris Gre­goire, Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Gir­may Zahi­lay (who served as the kick­of­f’s host), King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, and Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

Watch the event:

It was a kick­off the likes of which our team has rarely seen dur­ing NPI’s twen­ty year his­to­ry. It had the feel of a GOTV cam­paign ral­ly, even though the 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is more than a year away. Gre­goire, in par­tic­u­lar, was in top form. She received a stand­ing ova­tion from the crowd as she was intro­duced and seemed very touched. Gre­goire deliv­ered remarks that mixed amus­ing anec­dotes, a tes­ti­mo­ni­al, and even a call and response with the crowd.

“I’ve had the chance to see a num­ber of my col­league attor­neys gen­er­al become gov­er­nors. And I’ve got­ta tell ya, real­ly good attor­neys gen­er­al make real­ly great gov­er­nors,” said Gre­goire to laugh­ter and applause. “It is a job that pre­pares you the day you get sworn in to make a dif­fer­ence and get going that first day.”

“So, let me just say, when I think about Bob and what Bob has done, he has stood up for the prin­ci­ples that all good attor­neys gen­er­al stand for. Lib­er­ty. Free­dom. Jus­tice. Bob has been there every sin­gle day like my col­leagues have said.”

Inslee fol­lowed Gre­goire and wast­ed no time in men­tion­ing to the assem­bled crowd that he had been uncom­mit­ted to a can­di­date until very recently.

“I want to say that I don’t do this light­ly,” Inslee began.

“To endorse [for] a posi­tion that I have been able to hold with this hon­or for the last decade, and to have the right per­son to con­tin­ue our upward climb as a state, is a big deal to me and my grand­chil­dren, to get the right per­son for this posi­tion. So I don’t do it — I don’t do it out of hap­pen­stance or polit­i­cal convenience.”

Inslee cit­ed three rea­sons why he’s endors­ing Ferguson:

  • Fer­gu­son runs a great AG’s office that per­forms at a very high level
  • Inslee trusts Fer­gu­son to build on his lega­cy of fight­ing cli­mate damage
  • Fer­gu­son is a win­ner, and WA need some­body who gets results consistently

Fer­gu­son then took the stage after Inslee’s introduction.

Governor Jay Inslee endorses gubernatorial hopeful Bob Ferguson
Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee shakes hands with Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son after announc­ing his endorse­ment of Fer­gu­son for gov­er­nor in 2024 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“I real­ly believe that elect­ed offi­cials gov­ern the way that they cam­paign,” Fer­gu­son told his sup­port­ers after thank­ing all of his endorsers.

“I think you can dis­cern a lot from the way some­one runs their cam­paign. Today alone, we’ve been East­ern Wash­ing­ton, Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, West­ern Wash­ing­ton. All sum­mer, we’ve trav­eled every cor­ner of the state.”

“Here’s the bot­tom line: I’m going to be gov­er­nor for every sin­gle Wash­ing­ton­ian in every cor­ner of this great state,” Fer­gu­son vowed.

“Now, thanks to Gov­er­nor Inslee and Gov­er­nor Gre­goire, Wash­ing­ton’s a top ten state to live and a top ten state to do busi­ness. We have a great state. And as I’ve trav­eled the state, I hear that from the peo­ple I meet with.”

“But, we have major chal­lenges fac­ing us as a state.”

“You know that, I know that, Gov­er­nor Inslee and Gov­er­nor Gre­goire know that.”

Those chal­lenges, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al said, include a lack of afford­able and attain­able hous­ing, a pub­lic safe­ty cri­sis exac­er­bat­ed by a lack of well trained law enforce­ment offi­cers, the grow­ing scourge of cli­mate dam­age, and assaults on our demo­c­ra­t­ic repub­lic by bad actors such as Don­ald Trump and his entourage.

“There is a chance that Don­ald Trump can be returned to the White House and if that hap­pens, we need anoth­er gov­er­nor like our cur­rent gov­er­nor who knows how to stand up to an admin­is­tra­tion that is hell bent on strip­ping away your rights and your free­doms and your pro­tec­tions in our envi­ron­ment,” said Fer­gu­son. “And the good news in all that is I have some expe­ri­ence in that work.”

Pre­view­ing his next year of cam­paign­ing, Fer­gu­son declared that nei­ther he nor his team (or any of his sup­port­ers) can afford to be com­pla­cent, and must­n’t be.

“It has been said that we are the front run­ner in this cam­paign, and I under­stand why peo­ple say that,” Fer­gu­son said. “After all, we have the most donors. We have the most mon­ey. We have the most endorse­ments, and we have the best orga­ni­za­tion. By far. But my team knows, and I tell them this all the time: we are going to run like we are twen­ty points behind every sin­gle day.”

After con­clud­ing his remarks, Fer­gu­son shook hands and posed for pho­tos with sup­port­ers while the hall was cleaned up, as is his cus­tom. Gov­er­nor Inslee and First Lady Tru­di Inslee also stuck around for a while to greet supporters.

Fer­gu­son, fifty-eight, announced that he would be a can­di­date last spring after Inslee revealed he had decid­ed not to seek an unprece­dent­ed fourth term.

Pri­or to today, he has char­ac­ter­ized his cam­paign as “explorato­ry,” even though legal­ly, there’s no such thing as an “explorato­ry” cam­paign at the state lev­el, some­thing reporters have delight­ed in point­ing out on social platforms.

(The FEC allows fed­er­al can­di­dates to orga­nize “explorato­ry” cam­paigns, which must com­ply with the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Cam­paign Act but don’t have to reg­is­ter.)

NPI’s most recent statewide pub­lic opin­ion sur­vey, which vet­er­an local poll­ster Stu­art Elway char­ac­ter­ized as “the only cred­i­ble pub­lic poll thus far” of the 2024 guber­na­to­r­i­al con­test, found Fer­gu­son out in front of Demo­c­ra­t­ic rivals Hilary Franz and Mark Mul­let and Repub­li­can rivals Raul Gar­cia and Semi Bird back in June. Gar­cia exit­ed the con­test in favor of Dave Reichert after the sur­vey fielded.

Fer­gu­son earned the sup­port of 25% of respon­dents in the sur­vey, with Repub­li­can Gar­cia the run­ner-up at 17%. “If the elec­tion were today – as poll­sters like to pre­tend — his­tor­i­cal trends and cur­rent polling data would have Reichert and Fer­gu­son fin­ish­ing a close 1 and 2 in the [Top Two] elec­tion, set­ting up anoth­er high­ly par­ti­san race for gov­er­nor,” Elway wrote in a July 12th memo.

Our team agrees with Elway’s analy­sis. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber, though, that the elec­tion is over a year away and the elec­toral land­scape could change. What is prob­a­ble today isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly what will be prob­a­ble next win­ter or next sum­mer or a year from now, as we enter the home stretch of the 2024 cycle.

Fer­gu­son is smart to not be com­pla­cent. Our team fre­quent­ly points out in this space that vot­ers tend to pun­ish com­pla­cen­cy when they are least expect­ed to. Fer­gu­son — a cham­pi­on door­beller who oust­ed not one, but two incum­bent Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of the King Coun­ty Coun­cil ear­li­er in his polit­i­cal career — gets this and he is vow­ing not to be out­worked by any rival.

Mul­let and Franz both issued state­ments react­ing to Inslee’s endorsement.

Let me say: I respect Gov­er­nor Inslee,” said Mul­let. “But over the years we’ve had some seri­ous dif­fer­ences in vision for our state. Wash­ing­ton has some of the high­est home & gas prices, and we’ve added a new pay­roll tax. I believe these have led to an afford­abil­i­ty cri­sis and Gov­er­nor Inslee’s endorse­ment of my oppo­nent indi­cates there will be more of the same under his leadership.”

Any­thing I’ve ever done, whether it was run­ning for city coun­cil or state lands com­mis­sion­er or my law career, I’ve been told to sit qui­et­ly, wait my turn, and let the men ahead of me have theirs. Nev­er stopped me,” Franz said

There was no imme­di­ate reac­tion to Fer­gu­son’s kick­off and new endorse­ments from Reichert’s cam­paign, which has been run­ning in what many polit­i­cal observers might call low pow­er mode since it began. The cam­paign has not, for instance, post­ed a new tweet to its Twit­ter account since August 17th.

Fil­ing Week 2024 will begin in two hun­dred and thir­ty nine days, with vot­ing in the August Top Two elec­tion con­clud­ing three months after that.

There are only two avail­able slots on the Novem­ber 2024 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot for Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State, and they will go to the top two vote-get­ting can­di­dates regard­less of par­ty. If most Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers choose to coa­lesce around Fer­gu­son and most Repub­li­can vot­ers embrace Reichert, we could see the matchup Elway spoke of in his July memo. There are oth­er pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios, of course, but whether an alter­na­tive sce­nario becomes more prob­a­ble than that one will depend pri­mar­i­ly on how effec­tive­ly Fer­gu­son and Reichert’s rivals campaign.

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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