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Two of three people who filed to run for governor under name Bob Ferguson withdraw from race

Secretary of state announces development

By Claire Withycombe, The Seattle Times
Published: May 13, 2024, 5:41pm

Washington’s candidate filing week ended in chaos — and more than a few jokes on social media — when the field of candidates for governor increased by two more Bob Fergusons.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the Democratic front-runner in the race, on Monday urged the two others to withdraw from the race by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline or else risk felony charges.

Flanked by supporters at Kerry Park on Queen Anne on Monday morning, Ferguson said his campaign had sent cease-and-desist letters to the other Bob Fergusons.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs announced in a news release later Monday that two of the three people who filed to run for governor under the name Bob Ferguson withdrew from the race before Monday’s deadline. Bob Ferguson, who is currently serving as the state’s attorney general, will remain on the ballot in position 11 of a field of 28 candidates, Hobbs said.

State statute says that it is a felony for a person to file for an election with a surname similar to a person who has already filed for the same office “and whose political reputation is widely known, with intent to confuse and mislead the electors by capitalizing on the public reputation of the candidate who had previously filed.”

A statement posted on the website Neighbors for Bob Ferguson PAC, attributed to Robert Ferguson, an Army veteran in Graham, said the candidate was “faced with harassment and legal action if I did not withdraw from the race.”

“I was publicly labeled a ‘threat to democracy’ by another candidate and his supporters,” the undated statement said. “In a typical hypocritical fashion, this other candidate’s actions are the true threat to democracy. I believe this shows that the other candidate fears he has not effectively done enough to stand out, or that he thinks voters are not competent enough to think for themselves.”

The statement went on to say it was unfair to his family and supporters to deal with “bullish behavior by someone that is too afraid to stand toe-to-toe with me.”

That campaign said via email that the statement was posted about midday on Monday.

Ferguson — the attorney general — said that he didn’t want the other two Bobs to be prosecuted and that he held “no ill will” toward them. He said he suspected they did not know the “legal implications” of their actions at the time they filed for election. But if they didn’t withdraw, he said, his campaign would ask local prosecutors to step in.

“If they do not do the right thing, and they are surely aware of the legal implications, we will have no choice but to take more serious steps and ask local prosecutors to do the right thing and pursue further action,” Ferguson said.

The potential presence of multiple candidates with the same name on the ballot had required the Office of Secretary of State to follow procedures authorized by Washington Administrative Code 434-215-060 to mitigate voter confusion, Hobbs said in his news release.

“Instances of people filing for office with names similar to well-known officeholders go back nearly a century in Washington and other states,” Hobbs said. “That is nothing new. We know how to address such issues as elections officials.”

RCW 29A.84.320 makes it a felony to declare as a candidate for public office under the name of a fictitious person, a false name, or in using the name of an incumbent or candidate who has already filed “with intent to confuse and mislead” the voting public.

“Voters deserve good-faith candidates who are running on the strength of their ideas to make Washington a better place to live and work, not people who pay a filing fee just to manipulate elections,” Hobbs said. “Washington’s long history of free and fair elections must be protected and preserved in every year and campaign cycle.”

Conservative activist Glen Morgan, who recruited the other Bobs to run for governor, told The Seattle Times on Friday that the Bobs had wanted to “clear their name.”

Washington’s primary is Aug. 6.

The Columbian contributed to this story.