Attorney General Bob Ferguson has an early lead in Washington’s unfolding 2024 gubernatorial race, but an early poll shows one third of the state’s voters undecided about who they will choose to succeed three-term Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.
The high-profile Ferguson garners 25 percent, running far ahead of his announced Democratic foes, State Land Commissioner Hilary Franz at 9 percent and a newly announced candidate, three-term State Sen. Mark Mullet, trails at 7 percent.
Among Republicans, a latecomer to the 2020 primary election – Yakima physician Raul Garcia – is ahead with 17 percent, while Richland School Board member Semi Bird trails at 7 percent. A Republican leader in one previous poll, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, has taken himself out of the race.
The survey of 773 Washington voters was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute. PPS has Democratic roots, but unlike other pollsters it was spot on in forecasting the comfortable reelection margin of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in last year’s expensive U.S. Senate race. Northwest Progressive Institute is best known for its dogged challenging of initiative promoter Tim Eyman.
“They (PPP) have never been wrong that I can think of,” said Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of Northwest Progressive Institute. The polling firm has worked for his organization for a decade. An institute-sponsored poll last year was first to show Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp-Perez within striking distance of MAGA Republican Joe Kent in Southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District. MGP scored a surprising upset win in last year’s election.
The latest poll touched every corner of the Evergreen state: 20 percent of those surveyed live in Eastern Washington, 14 percent on the Olympic Peninsula and Southwest Washington, 18 percent apiece in South Puget Sound and North Puget Sound counties, with 31 percent in populous (and heavily Democratic) King County. The survey was taken Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
A poll is a snapshot in time, and voters have until August of next year to sample the candidates and make up their minds. The Northwest states of Washington and Oregon have the longest Democratic party winning streaks in America. This state has not elected a Republican governor since John Spellman’s 1980 win. Five Democrats, from Booth Gardner to Jay Inslee, have occupied the governor’s mansion. The last Republican governor in Oregon, Vic Atiyeh, was elected in 1982.
If Washington politics had a mantra, it would be: “Nobody outworks Bob Ferguson.” He ousted two incumbent members of the King County Council and beat Councilman Reagan Dunn for AG in 2012. He gained national fame with a series of successful lawsuits against the Trump Administration, starting with a challenge to the first Muslim travel ban.
Ferguson has been a leader in AGs’ lawsuits against firms manufacturing and distributing the addictive painkiller Oxycontin. He has sued Monsanto over PCBs in state waterways and won a big lawsuit against the (since renamed) Grocery Manufacturers Assn. for money laundering in a state initiative campaign. He is a longtime champion of the ban on purchase of assault weapons recently enacted by the Legislature.
Two other AGs who took on Trump in court, Massachusetts’ Maura Healey and Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, were elected governors of their states last November. Ferguson has lately filled ballrooms in Seattle and Tacoma for show-of-strength fundraisers.
Hilary Franz is the state’s chief firefighter. She has sought additional firefighting resources, warning that climate change has lengthened the fire season, added to the intensity of forest and wildland fires, and brought fire danger to the “wet” side of the mountains. She has also banned net-pen fish farming in state waters.
Mullet, from Issaquah, is a moderate Democrat, a species whose numbers in the Washington Legislature are much diminished from years past. He barely beat a fellow Democrat in 2020, with Gov. Inslee paying a visit to his East King County district to campaign against him. He has irked the Democratic left by voting against the state’s new capital gains tax on high-income earners and opposing the payroll tax to pay for long-term health care. Such hard-left voices as The Stranger have greeted his candidacy with near-hysteria.
Garcia is medical director at Toppenish Hospital. Born in Cuba, he is a trauma specialist and emergency room physician. While running in 2020 with backing from Republican luminaries – Dan Evans, Slade Gorton and Rob McKenna – he took only 5.4 percent of the vote. The primary winner was Republican, Washington, policeman Loren Culp, heralding from the party’s far right.
Bird is a Richland School Board member. He and two other school directors are facing a recall over a surprise, unannounced vote for schools in the Eastern Washington city to go “mask optional” and defy the state’s mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Democrats’ long statehouse winning streak, and victories in eight consecutive U.S. Senate contests. has been built on 400-500,000 vote victories in King County. Two pro-Republican pollsters, Trafalgar and Moore Information, showed Republican Tiffany Smiley within striking distance of Murray last year. “We want that seat,” Sean Hannity of Fox News said over the airwaves.
Murray won her sixth term by a double-digit margin. Republicans face stiff headwinds in Washington state.