Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is running for governor, he announced in a video Tuesday morning, wasting no time in launching an exploratory campaign just one day after Gov. Jay Inslee said he would not seek a fourth term.
A three-term Democratic attorney general, Ferguson touted his battles with the Trump administration over issues such as immigration and abortion rights, as well as his recent legislative success in banning semi-automatic rifles like AR-15s.
“I’ve never been afraid to take on big fights,” Ferguson wrote on Twitter. “From the Trump Admin & gun lobby to anti-abortion extremists & corporate interests, I’ve taken on powerful adversaries, and won. That’s just the start. I’m proud to announce my exploratory campaign for WA Gov.”
There is no distinction in state law between a campaign and an exploratory campaign.
Ferguson, 58, had expressed interest in running for governor in 2020, but decided to run for another term as attorney general after Inslee opted to seek another term.
He has more than $900,000 in his election campaign account and an additional $2.8 million stashed in a surplus campaign fund. That money was ostensibly raised for reflection to his current post, but could potentially be transferred to his 2024 gubernatorial campaign.
In announcing his campaign, Ferguson wrote that he would not take money from “large corporations.”
A top rival to Ferguson, state lands commissioner Hilary Franz, a Democrat, teased her own likely gubernatorial run in a Tuesday morning tweet.
“Stay tuned. Big announcement coming soon …” she wrote shortly after Ferguson’s campaign launch.
Franz has backed a petition to the state Public Disclosure Commission, which would make it more difficult for Ferguson to transfer his surplus funds to his gubernatorial campaign.
On Twitter, she wrote that she was pledging not to transfer her own relatively paltry surplus funds — about $29,000 — to a gubernatorial campaign until the PDC weighs in.
“I hope all candidates do the same. Washingtonians deserve clean and fair elections,” she wrote.
The governor’s race is not until 2024, although candidates usually launch campaigns the year before in an effort to raise money and build support.
State Sen. Mark Mullet, a moderate Democrat from Issaquah, said he was considering a run for governor and would make a decision in the next four to six weeks.
Democrats have dominated the governor’s mansion in Olympia for decades. No Republican has won the governor’s office since John Spellman in 1980, the longest drought in the nation.
Semi Bird, a military veteran and Richland School Board member, is actively campaigning as a Republican candidate for governor, raising $50,000 so far.
A Seattle native and two-time state chess champion, Ferguson clerked for two federal judges and worked as a litigator for Preston Gates & Ellis before running for office.
Ferguson began his political career with a campaign for King County Council in 2003. He knocked off a 20-year incumbent, the chair of the County Council, by just 500 votes, after knocking on “22,000 doors.”
He has used that upset win in campaign lore ever since, defeating his then-colleague on the County Council, Reagan Dunn, in a statewide race for attorney general in 2012.
“I ran a grassroots campaign and knocked on 22,000 doors,” he said in his announcement video Tuesday. “I’m standing in front of the first door I knocked on to announce my exploratory campaign for governor.”
In his initial campaign for County Council, he attacked incumbent Cynthia Sullivan’s support for Sound Transit’s then-troubled light rail program, in hindsight a surprising position for a politician who has emerged as a progressive stalwart.
During the Trump administration, Ferguson frequently touted his record of suing to stop the administration’s policies. By his count, he filed 97 lawsuits against the federal government during Trump’s term, winning 39 and losing only two.
He sued in the earliest days of Trump’s presidency to stop the so-called travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries. He sued to block military funds from being used for a border wall. He filed dozens of environmental lawsuits. He sued to keep in place DACA, the federal program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the US as young children to live and work here.
“If the overwhelming majority of Dreamers were Caucasian, does anybody really think this president would have taken the action he took yesterday?” Ferguson says in a clip from his announcement video. “It’s outrageous.”
He’s carried on a yearlong lawsuit against Facebook for violating the state’s campaign finance laws and has filed lawsuits against national pharmacy chains, drug manufacturers and drug distributors over the opioid epidemic. That’s led to more than a half a billion dollars in settlement deals.
While Inslee’s announcement about his political future was only made on Monday, Ferguson has clearly been planning his gubernatorial campaign for some time.
His campaign website is fully fleshed out, touting his support for, among other things, reproductive rights, civil rights and environmental protections. It already listed endorsements from 16 state senators, 20 state representatives and four Washington members of Congress: Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina; Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor; Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle; and Adam Smith, D-Bellevue.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.