The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, announced today that delegates representing hundreds of unions from across the Evergreen State voted resoundingly today to endorse Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson to be Washington’s next governor. “A two-thirds majority vote was required for endorsement. That supermajority was easily achieved in favor of Ferguson,” the WSLC said in a news release announcing its decision.
Ferguson is the Democratic frontrunner for governor in 2024 and is in a tight head-to-head matchup with Republican Congressman Dave Reichert in a hypothetical general election environment, according to our public opinion research. Ferguson is also competing with dozens of other candidates for a spot on the November general election candidate. However, of those other contenders, only two others have been raising serious money: Democratic State Senator Mark Mullet and Republican Semi Bird, an ousted Richland school board member.
“This is a critical race for Washington’s working families and our affiliated unions want to hit the ground running early to support Bob Ferguson, who’s clearly the best candidate for governor,” said April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in the WSLC’s statement. “Bob Ferguson has been a strong champion for workers in our state. From fighting wage theft to protecting Hanford workers, Bob has consistently stood up to big corporations — and the federal government, when necessary — to make sure working people’s rights are protected. We are confident he will continue to do so as governor.”
“I am honored to receive [the Washington State Labor Council’s] early endorsement,” said Ferguson in a brief statement. “The WSLC is a powerful voice for Washington’s diverse workers, who form the backbone of our state. I will continue fighting for better wages, jobs, and education, and stronger collective bargaining rights for Washington’s working families.”
“Corporations outspend unions on elections by 16-to‑1, so it’s not just about campaign contributions; it’s about people power,” said WSLC Secretary Treasurer Cherika Carter, referring to Open Secrets research on money in campaigns.
“The WSLC endorsement means gaining grassroots volunteers who will roll up their sleeves to knock on doors, make phone calls, send texts, and have conversations with their co-workers, friends, and neighbors about why Bob Ferguson is the best choice for governor. We’re kicking off this work right now.”
The WSLC’s release also knocked Reichert for having “voted for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations that have increased budget deficits, for job-killing ‘free trade’ agreements, and to make it harder to form unions” during his stint representing the 8th Congressional District in the House of Representatives.
No mention was made of Mullet’s candidacy — or Bird’s.
The last time Mullet ran for office, however, the Washington State Labor Council endorsed his Democratic opponent — Ingrid Anderson — while business groups went all-in to defend Mullet in his bid for a third consecutive term in the Washington State Senate. Republicans inexplicably did not field a candidate, resulting in an intraparty challenge ending up on the general election ballot.
“We’re used to seeing big out-of-state corporations spend millions to try to get Republicans elected in Washington state, but this time their attacks are on behalf of a Democratic senator,” said Larry Brown, April Sims’ predecessor, in a July 20th, 2020 statement. “It underscores the stakes in this election. Voters in east King County are choosing between an incumbent politician who supports corporate interests and a nurse who supports working people’s interests.”
Mullet narrowly prevailed in that election, winning 41,949 votes to Anderson’s 41,892 votes. The difference was a mere fifty-seven votes.
Mullet is the only 2024 gubernatorial candidate that NPI’s research indicates has experienced negative momentum during the course of his campaign. At the time he began running, he had 7% support in our horserace question looking at the Top Two field. But as of November, he had slipped to 5% in that same question.
The Jackson Legacy Fund, which supports Mullet, feels that once Washington voters know about some of Reichert’s problematic issue positions and strongly held right wing values, they will be much more interested in Mullet’s candidacy. They hired Republican pollster Moore Information to investigate that scenario.
But candidate elections turn on identity and trust, not issue positions. Issue positions can influence how people feel about candidates, but they aren’t decisive. It won’t be enough for Mullet to have a set of popular positions, or positions that what’s left of the Dan Evans wing of the Republican Party will like. Mullet needs voters to identify with his candidacy and back it over Reichert’s. That’ll be difficult.
Given Mullet’s long record of voting against priority WSLC legislation, he effectively long ago eliminated himself from consideration in the labor movement’s endorsement proceedings as a candidate for higher office. With Ferguson the only other Democratic gubernatorial hopeful remaining (Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz pivoted to running for Congress several months back), the expectation has been the WSLC would endorse Ferguson at some point.
However, the WSLC does most of its endorsing at its annual COPE meeting in May. It is significant that Ferguson is receiving an endorsement months sooner than that, here in February. It speaks to the enthusiasm for his candidacy within the labor movement and Ferguson’s efforts to defend and expand worker protections.