Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday made his opening argument to be Washington’s next governor, vowing to “change the culture of state government” and ensure “our decisions as a state are not dictated by powerful special interests in back rooms.”
“I want to make sure every Washingtonian gets a fair shake and level playing field,” he told state labor leaders gathered in SeaTac. “Each and every day I will center your faces and your voices in every decision I make.”
Ferguson, who is in his third term, is the presumptive front-runner at this stage in the 2024 race to succeed Gov. Jay Inslee, who is not seeking re-election. Tuesday’s appearance in front of an estimated 400 attendees at the Washington State Labor Council convention marked one of his first public speeches as a candidate since entering the campaign in May.
Two other Democrats – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and state Sen. Mark Mullet – are also vying for the job. Dave Reichert, a former congressman and Semi Bird, a Richland school board member, are the leading Republicans.
Franz will speak at the convention Wednesday.
Ferguson, 58, of Seattle, served a decade on the King County Council before becoming attorney general. He is a fourth-generation Washington resident. He and his wife are parents of 15-year-old twins.
He boasted Tuesday of having never lost an election and touted his “people-powered campaign” for governor. He has amassed $3 million in contributions from more than 10,000 donors and “not one cent” from big corporations, he said.
In the 15-minute address, Ferguson said he wants to change the culture of state government as he did his current office, noting the establishment of divisions focused on civil rights, consumer protections, and environmental wrongdoing transformed the agency from a “sleepy Olympia law firm” into “one of the strongest forces for economic and social justice” in the state and nation.
He talked of notable accomplishments in his tenure including unionizing of assistant attorney generals, which he supported, forcing a mushroom company to pay millions in wages owed to 170 farmworkers, enforcing prevailing wage and wage theft laws more aggressively, statutes, and holding corporations accountable, notably opioid manufacturers.
He noted a mostly winning track record of lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, adding he also sued former President Barack Obama regarding protections for workers at the Hanford nuclear site.
“I would like a new job. I don’t want a new job to make more money to get a new car,” he said, adding that he drives a 20-year-old Subaru. “What I want, the only thing that I care about outside my family and my friends, is using the tools that I have as an individual, whatever skills I have, or the tools the state of Washington grants to me to advocate for the people of the state of Washington.”
Meanwhile, Ferguson’s shifting of $1.2 million of contributions from past campaigns into the current one for governor continues to be a subject of attention of the Public Disclosure Commission.
A complaint filed last month contends the individual donors of those contributions must be identified and their past donations should count toward contribution limits in his campaign for governor.
Absent such transparency, it is likely some individuals or groups have now exceeded contribution limits for his new endeavor, according to the complaint.
Zachary Pekelis, Ferguson’s lawyer, argued in an 18-page response to the commission last month that his client followed the rules in place at the time of the transfers and retroactively enforcing new guidance would be a “bait-and-switch.”
On Tuesday, Ferguson responded brusquely when asked if, in light of his pledge on changing the culture of government and ensuring a level playing field for all, would he publicly disclose the source of those dollars.
“What we filed is my statement,” he said. “Thanks. Have a good day.”
— By Jerry Cornfield, Washington State Standard
Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.