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.
“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.
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.