The first credible poll on Washington’s 2024 governor’s race, anticipating that three-term Gov. Jay Inslee will bow out, identifies as clear front runners Republican Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The survey of 874 likely voters was taken for the Northwest Progressive Institute and done by Public Policy Polling, which accurately pegged Sen. Patty Murray’s big reelection margin last year, and showed Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp-Perez in striking distance of an upset win in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
The latest poll tested four gubernatorial prospects — the GOP’s Dammeier and three Democrats. Two of the Dems, AG Ferguson and State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, launched campaigns for Governor during Inslee’s short-lived run for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination.
The figures: Dammeier was the choice of 35 percent of those surveyed. Ferguson was picked by 21 percent, with Franz and King County Executive Dow Constantine trailing, each with 7 percent. A whopping 30 percent of those surveyed were not sure.
A modest surprise in this “blue” state is that Dammeier’s support equals backing for all three Democrats combined. The state has elected five consecutive Democratic governors in the past 39 years. Our last Republican governor, John Spellman, was defeated by a Democratic Pierce County Executive, Booth Gardner, in 1984.
“Dammeier’s percentage is what we’d expect to see given that he is the only Republican candidate mentioned in the question,” Andrew Villeneuve, head of Northwest Progressive Institute, said in releasing the poll.
The state’s Republicans have found themselves stuck in a rut of late. They’ve received a vote percentage in the low 40s — not just in Loren Culp’s longshot 2020 challenge to Inslee, but in Tiffany Smiley’s $20-million challenge to Sen. Murray. King County has delivered vote margins as high as 400,000 votes to Democrats at the top of the ticket.
Dammeier was a capable state senator and wrested the Pierce County Executive job from the Democrats in 2016, a presidential year. While experiencing the same problems of homelessness and crime that dog King County, Pierce County has gained a reputation for somewhat quicker response and stiffer law enforcement.
Ferguson has the pole position among the Democrats. The AG repeatedly challenged and beat the Trump Administration in court, starting with the Muslim travel ban and extending to Trump’s attempts to roll back environmental and consumer protection. Ferguson has taken on high profile targets with notable success, such as shaking more money out of corporate architects of the opioid epidemic. He is an aggressive defender of abortion rights, and a longtime advocate of a ban on military-style assault rifles.
The AG has staged big, recent show-of-strength fundraisers in both Seattle and Tacoma. Analyzing results of the PPP poll, however, Villeneuve notes: “Franz and Constantine are tied in the single digits, while Ferguson has three times as much support as either, but still is under one quarter support overall.”
The poll’s message may be that there is a “lane” for another Democrat to take on the Attorney General. Franz has been out front and all over the state, urging greater resources and proactive response to a warming climate and an expanding fire season.
Elected in 2009, Constantine has headed a stable county government during periods of turmoil across the street at Seattle City Hall. The Emerald City has seen a succession of one-term mayors. Still, four-termer Constantine has been overshadowed. In town to tout his latest book, ex-President Jimmy Carter did a cameo appearance at Constantine’s annual fundraising lunch, only to sing the praises of Bob Ferguson.
Two Republican-linked polling firms, Trafalgar and Moore Information, stumbled in last year’s election, breathlessly reporting that the GOP’s Tiffany Smiley was moving to within striking range of Sen. Murray, only to have Murray win by a 15-point margin.
By contrast, PPP showed Murray with a steady, double-digit lead. It also forecast accurately that Democrats were in firm control of the Washington Legislature. A bevy of high-profile challengers, recruited by the Republicans, went down to defeat. Gluesenkamp-Perez scored the biggest congressional upset in the country.
The poll for Northwest Progressive Institute was in the field March 7 and 8. Its automated survey was divided equally between land lines and cell phones. It has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.3 percent. PPP is a pollster with Democratic roots, but made its mark with surveys that accurately predicted big losses for the party in the 2010 and 2014 mid-term elections.
Gov. Inslee, now in his third term, has not stated his intentions but continues to raise money and send out hyperbole-filled email fundraising blasts.