Former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is two points up on and Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the first head-on-head poll matchup in Washington’s 2024 race for Governor, a surprising finding from a statewide survey of 750 voters taken for the Northwest Progressive Institute.
The survey, done by Public Policy Polling, pits Reichert at 46 percent with Ferguson at 44 percent, a virtual tie. Nine percent said they were undecided. The two leading candidates are tied at 31 percent apiece in a four-way survey that included Democrat State Sen. Mark Mullet and former Richland School Board member Semi Bird, a Republican.
The Republicans have not elected a Governor in the Evergreen State since John Spellman’s 1980 victory yet, a year out, GOP candidate Reichert is highly competitive. The Democrats’ Ferguson has won three statewide races as Attorney General and made headlines with repeated successful legal challenges to the Trump Administration.
Reichert is a onetime King County Sheriff who served 14 years in Congress. He represented the 8th Congressional District, centered in east King County but including portions of Pierce County as well as crossing the “Cascade Curtain” to include Kittitas and Chelan Counties. He was a relatively moderate Republican, although strongly anti-abortion.
In the four-way contest, both Ferguson and Reichert receive 31 percent, while Bird is at 10 percent with Mullet, a moderate Democrat, comes in at 5 percent. Bird is a MAGA Republican closely associated with the Trump wing of the party. Mullet, an Issaquah Democrat, represents the 5th Legislative District in eastern King County, overlapping with Reichert’s old congressional turf.
The PPP poll was taken Nov. 14 and 15, after State Land Commissioner Hilary Franz took herself out of the gubernatorial race. Franz is now running to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer. The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.7 percent. It used automated polling of landlines (42 percent) and online answers from respondents recruited by text (58 percent).
“Reichert has strong support of the Republican base, especially in our head-to-head question, where Semi Bird was not an option,” said Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of Northwest Progressive Institute. “Second, a plurality of independents favored Reichert’s candidacy to Ferguson.”
And, Villeneuve added, Reichert is able to “get votes” from Democrats, 17 percent in the poll. “That last dynamic could be a temporary condition” given Reichert’s stand on abortion,” Villeneuve added. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., used her choice stand to rack up a substantial victory over GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley in last year’s U.S. Senate race.
Ferguson has far outpaced the gubernatorial field in fundraising since incumbent three-term Gov. Jay Inslee announced his retirement. The AG has raised $4.7 million in contributions, according to figures from the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. He has held big show-of-strength fundraisers in Seattle and Tacoma, as well as events from Bellingham to Spokane to Vancouver.
Since reentering the political fray, in a video with Chelan as backdrop, Reichert has taken in $927,577. Mullet, a Democrat who has garnered business support, has reported $923,045 in donations, while Bird has collected $230,029. Although the 2024 general election is a year away, the four candidates have already spent more than $1.7 million, with Ferguson in the lead at $816,299.
The polling results come from an unlikely source. Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) is Democratic aligned, best known for initially blowing the whistle on the campaign finance violations of perennial initiative sponsor Tim Eyman. Villeneuve has served as a Democratic National Convention representative and started fighting Eyman initiatives when he was a teenager.
As well, Public Policy Polling has Democratic roots. But the national firm was early to spot downturns in President Barack Obama’s popularity, and the shellackings – Obama’s word – taken by Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. It accurately predicted Sen. Murray’s reelection win and her substantial margin last year. Its predictions, polling for NPI in 2020, were spot on.
Washington has emerged as a “blue” Democratic state after years of electing such centrist Republicans as Gov. Dan Evans and the late Sen. Slade Gorton. It has voted Democratic for President in nine consecutive elections. Five consecutive Democrats – Booth Gardner, Mike Lowry, Gary Locke, Chris Gregoire, and Inslee – have occupied the Governor’s office. Since 2000, a pair of Democrats, Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, have represented Washington in the U.S. Senate. Eight of the state’s ten U.S. House members are Democrats.
Ferguson has been an aggressive Attorney General. He won a major judgment from the Grocery Manufacturers Association for laundering money spent to defeat a food labeling initiative. The AG was first to challenge (successfully) the Trump administration’s first ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. He has established environmental and civil rights divisions in the Attorney General’s office, and Thursday saw the first action brought by the new Organized Retail Crime Unit.
Reichert backed the Trump Administration more than 90 percent of the time on House votes yet made no secret of his distaste for the 45th president. He is best known for taking on the House Republican leadership in 2015 over reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, vital to foreign sales of Boeing aircraft and other products.
The Ex-Im Bank legislation was stymied in the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by an ultraconservative Texas Republican. Reichert and Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck mounted a discharge petition., getting signatures of more than half their House colleagues to force a floor vote. The bank was reauthorized.