The emergence of a politically experienced Republican candidate is reshaping the contours of next year’s race for governor.
Dave Reichert, who served seven terms in Congress after a stint as King County sheriff, registered a political committee on June 30, clearing the way for him to raise money for a campaign. On Friday morning, King 5 News reported he was officially joining the race.
Reichert’s move last week drew immediate fire from the presumptive Democratic frontrunner, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, who has raised $2.8 million and led polling conducted earlier this year.
“Dave Reichert represents a profound threat to reproductive freedom,” Ferguson declared in a written statement last Friday, citing Reichert’s votes and comments opposing abortion while in Congress. On Thursday, Ferguson’s camp sent out the same statement again.
The attacks underscore Reichert’s formidability as the best-known Republican in a field with upwards of 20 potential contenders as of Wednesday, a figure that could shrink by the time the filing period for candidates arrives next May. One Republican, Raul Garcia, did exit the race on Friday.
Reichert would also be the most seasoned GOP hopeful for governor since 2012 when Rob McKenna, then attorney general, narrowly lost to Jay Inslee, a Democratic congressman.
Inslee was subsequently re-elected twice, defeating underfunded and lesser-known GOP opponents, Bill Bryant in 2016 and Loren Culp in 2020.
Republicans last won a gubernatorial election in Washington in 1980 and seem unlikely to end their losing streak in 2024 without a major candidate, like Reichert, making it to next year’s general election.
Given that history, Ferguson’s broadside will also serve to alert Democratic Party donors and independent political groups to not forsake next year’s race.
Reichert was first elected in 2004 to represent the 8th Congressional District whose boundaries throughout his tenure stretched from east King County across the Cascades into eastern Washington. He was re-elected six times before declining to run again in 2018.
Prior to Congress, Reichert, 72, served three decades in law enforcement, earning fame for his role on the task force that tracked down the serial killer known as the Green River Killer in 2001. He was appointed sheriff in 1997 and was elected to the office twice.
Garcia, an emergency medicine physician who lives in Yakima, said Friday he would step aside in the governor’s race, endorse Reichert, and instead run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell.
“We want to unite the party and support each other,” Garcia said in a statement, referring to Reichert, who he said had endorsed him in his Senate bid.
Republican contender Misipati Semi Bird has also been raising money and collecting endorsements for a while in the governor’s race and so far has not shown signs of quitting as Reichert enters.
On the Democratic Party side, Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and state Sen. Mark Mullet are vying to succeed Inslee. Neither Franz nor Mullet responded in recent days to Reichert’s looming entry into the race.
In his attack, Ferguson excerpts a 2006 Seattle Times article in which Reichert said he believed abortion “is taking a life.” And the attorney general blasted Reichert’s vote for an amendment in 2011 which news accounts said would ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood. In all, the political broadside spanned several pages.
A representative of Reichert’s campaign did not return calls or emails. Officials with Ferguson’s campaign declined to make the candidate available to discuss the statement.
This story was updated on Friday morning.
— 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.