Elections

Washington State Labor Council endorses Bob Ferguson’s 2024 gubernatorial campaign

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.”

A graph­ic cre­at­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil to pro­mote its endorse­ment of Bob Ferguson

“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.

Andrew Villeneuve

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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