Legislature Digest: Debora Juarez for Gov? Inslee Polling, and Drug Action


Pollsters were in the field this week testing positive and negative messages about potential candidates for governor, including two who aren’t in the race just yet. 

The survey — passed to us by a friend of The Observer — asked about Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Commissioner of Public Lands Hillary Franz, the two prominent Democrats already in the race. It also asked about Republican Raul Garcia, who’s in, and moderate Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet, who’s openly considering. But somewhat weirdly, it also floats the name of Seattle City Council president Debora Juarez, who isn’t seeking reelection to the city council next year. 

While the Seattle City Council is generally regarded as the springboard to nowhere in Washington politics, Juarez is that body’s first Native American member. There’s some angst on the left that the two Democrats currently in the race (Ferguson and Franz) are white politicians from affluent areas. It’s not clear who’s behind this survey. It’s most likely some deep-pocketed player looking for a horse to back that isn’t Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the presumptive front-runner. 

The survey tested positive and negative messaging on all the candidates. At this point in the campaign, you’re looking for strengths and weaknesses, both in your opponents and in the candidates you might favor. This is how smart money looks to see whether there’s likely to be a political return on investment: 

For example, here’s the positive message on Juarez: 

And here’s the mostly negative message on Mullet: 

Mullet, an Issaquah small businessman and maverick within his party, might not necessarily view this loaded question-framing as particularly negative messaging; his path to victory wouldn’t involve many folks motivated by strict loyalty to the Democratic Party.

Some list of somebodies is going to get the results of that poll in a few days. Don’t hesitate to drop us the toplines.

While we’re on the subject of polls we’ll likely never see…

One of the biggest political donations of the year thus far wasn’t strictly money, but rather information. Late last month, the Washington State Democratic Central Committee dropped $28,000 worth of opinion research on now-lame duck Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election campaign, which was then still technically alive.

Inslee opted out a few days later, announcing he wouldn’t seek an unprecedented fourth term. These two events may or may not be related. This is the kind of poll that never sees the light of day¹, both because it likely contained some unflattering numbers on Inslee and because it will be full of strategically important information for the party going forward. Under Washington’s campaign-finance restrictions, the state party is uniquely allowed to give Inslee’s campaign such a large in-kind donation.

We found this tidbit in Inslee’s latest filing with the Public Disclosure Commission. Interestingly, the survey hasn’t shown up yet on Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s disclosures. That suggests the party conducted it at Inslee’s behest. Again, if you’ve seen the results, don’t be shy.

A big bipartisan compromise on Blake fix

We’re not going to get deep in the weeds on the Legislature’s special session to clean up it’s last-day mess on the Blake fix. “Blake” refers to the 2021 Blake ruling, a landmark decision that invalidated the state law which historically defined drug possession as a felony. If you want to go deep, the folks at the Washington State Standard were all over it

We’ll just note that the negotiators on this bill found a really big center with their compromise. The vote was 83-12 in the House and 43-6 in the Senate, which is an absolute landslide on an issue this controversial, and one that deadlocked the Legislature in its dying days. Lawmakers — especially majority Democrats in the House — were subjected to extended scolding both in the traditional news media and online over the end-of-session meltdown.

Broadly speaking the bill increases penalties for drug possession over current law and creates a new offense for public use of illegal drugs. The carrot portion of the compromise envisions spending heavily to divert offenders into addiction treatment instead of jail.

That so few progressive Democrats voted “no” is also remarkable given the strong opposition to the compromise from the ACLU of Washington, which was all over Twitter early Tuesday urging a “no” vote. The ACLU was last seen on this issue favoring a high-dollar initiative campaign for broad decriminalization. 

The big issue going forward on this new law is going to be the availability and effectiveness of drug treatment in lieu of going to jail for drug possession. There is a broad shortage of treatment, and the treatment that exists is frequently ineffective. 


  1. We reached out to the party, but we’re not optimistic.

This article is excerpted from a fuller version in the author’s Washington Observer.

Paul Queary
Paul Queary
Paul Queary, a veteran AP reporter and editor, is founder of The Washington Observer, an independent newsletter on politics, government and the influence thereof in Washington State.


  1. My cynical self suspects the person behind this poll mostly wants to cut up the pie for liberal Democrats by inserting one more — the better to elect a moderate or an independent Republican. As to Juarez, I think she is too impulsive and unpredictable to be a good governor, as evident from her years on the Seattle City Council.

    • And it seems supremely unlikely that she would run for governor. I have the impression this is genuine retirement. “Somewhat weirdly” is an understatement.

      Stacking up a bunch of unserious candidates might actually be a pro-Ferguson tactic. Whoever comes in 2nd in the primary, the margin will affect the “smart money” invested in the general. If Ferguson looks like a lock, who’s going to spend a lot of money on Number 2’s campaign? And if she’s splitting the vote with lots of appealing alternatives, that makes this more likely.

  2. The tone of the question relating to Mark Mullet are straight out of the SEIU playbook. In fact, I think the language was used in SEIU-funded ads against him in his last campaign. SEIU may be trolling for a candidate, since neither Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz nor Attorney General Bob Ferguson served in the State Legislature, and thus, were not subjected to SEIU’s hard-ball, underhanded tactics. SEIU has, however, been involved in City Council lobbying (i.e., $15 minimum wage) and campaigns.

    • And Mullet is a pimp for the Freedom Foundation and the charter school racketeers. What’s your point? Are that lot any less prone to hardball underhanded tactics?


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