Governor’s Race Polling Surprise: Dave Reichert Leads Bob Ferguson

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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.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that crime and homelessness are going to be some of the top issues in this election. The recent Seattle City Council elections are an indicator of the public’s mood: the “progressive left” has been swept aside in favor of moderate candidates supporting increases in the police force and a greater emphasis on law enforcement.

    Additionally the carbon tax, which has resulted in sharp increases in gasoline prices, is highly unpopular. People may favor action on climate change in theory, but when faced with a higher cost of living, their attitudes change.

    These are issues that Reichart can run on against Ferguson.

    • Reichert, with his rabid, anti-abortion stance is not a moderate.

      We’ve seen, repeatedly, how pundits and Republican candidates are still ignoring the fact that the right to choose whether or not to give birth is THE ISSUE sending women and young voters, of both genders, to the polls. This is the issue in Ohio that so enraged Republican on the right they tried to overturn the result, when voters put the right to choose in the state’s constitution. It’s way too early to believe Reicher is going to win the gubernatorial race.

  2. PPP has had its problems. In the 2016 elections they reported Hilary Clinton as winning in Florida, underestimated Trump’s lead in Ohio and widely missed the mark in several swing states. I’d rather trust a service that’s based on the West Coast in determining the progress of Washington’s gubernatorial race than one based in North Carolina. Ferguson is still the one to beat.

  3. Ferguson will kick ass and fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way as Governor and whatever job the future offers him. He’s got my vote!

  4. In an adjacent article Brewster refers oh-so casually to “the Green/Left/Anti-Israel party”and it gave me a start ….and then when I just read Connelly here, I realized 2 things in rapid order:
    # 1. Ferguson is part of that crowd? Right? Along w/Jayapal no question mark.
    # 2. I might vote for a Republican for Governor (or ANY office) in many many decades going back to Bruce Chapman, John Miller and Paul Kraabel.

    (As if they were modern Republicans! The idea is comical to give you an idea how far the Republican Party has moved.)

    But I didn’t vote for Jayapal for House so I certainly wouldn’t vote for her for Governor.

    The race is Ferguson’s to lose. But he could easily lose.

    Btw, the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” function does not work.

  5. Nice overview of how things stand among candidates for Governor. Kinda early to make much of polling especially when Reichert has been out of office with no recent actions of decision points for people to understand where he might be on issues. When he was in Congress, he had a very minimal record of delivering or leading on issues important to Washington State citizens. As an “outsider” he gets free pass to criticize democrats for all the bad things that are happening. And he looks great in a photo shoot. Best hair of all the candidates. In a few months, once his strong opinions about denying women their reproductive rights becomes known, it will be interesting to see how poll numbers change. His opposition to any program to address the homeless, inflation, climate change will become better known as well. He represents not a change but regression.

  6. It is heartening to see how places like Ohio have enshrined abortion in their laws. This development may give Reichert some cover.

    I am not particularly impressed or fond of him but he appears to be real and competent, as compared to the clown show of Loren Culp, who no reasonable person could take seriously. His candidacy was evidence that the GOP gave up on Washington in 2020.

    Historically I have voted Democratic, but it is quite likely that I will vote for the GOP candidate in 2024 because I am sick of what has happened to our state. Inslee is an intellectual lightweight who has pandered to labor throughout his career.

    On his watch we have a highway department that does little about encampments and graffiti, and we gained the ill-conceived and implausible Capital Gains Tax that denies that such gains are income. We pay 50% more for gas than many other states and we have a Democratic legislature that could use some brakes applied.

    I don’t dislike Ferguson and he appears competent but I like many are beyond disgusted with the direction of Seattle and the state, so I will gladly roll the dice for change.

    • A note on capital gains tax – in terms of the state constitution, it only has to deny that it’s a tax on property. The constitution requires that “taxes shall be uniform upon the same class of property.”

      As for the cost of gasoline, Pennsylvania has a higher tax on it than Washington, and their price at the pumps is $3.60 this morning. Washington doesn’t set gasoline prices, the oil companies do. Word has it, their margins are considerable.

      • Thank you. If Capitol Gains are not income and income is not property, I don’t know what it is. Our state Supreme Court must have had to endure major contortions to reach their outcome. They supported the concept that the tax is an excise tax on transactions, despite it being a tax on the net income after losses and the like, not an equal tax on every transaction. There is an effort to appeal it to the SCOTUS. Whether it will be accepted to be heard is unknown at this time. I read the appeal and as a non-attorney it was interesting. It can be found here: https://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/quinn-v-washington/

        • It’s feeble. If the court gives them that, it will be a gift. The tax isn’t aimed at commerce or protectionism, so the dormant commerce clause is irrelevant.

          That said, it was disappointing to see the Washington case use “excise” to duck the real question – is an income tax a property tax? Only in Washington state would that even be a question, but here we are.

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