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News / Northwest

At shrimp feed fundraiser, Ferguson says Washington governor’s race will be close

By Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times
Published: May 20, 2024, 7:39pm
2 Photos
Supporters of Bob Ferguson, at top, enjoy shrimp at the annual shrimp feed fundraiser for Ferguson&rsquo;s gubernatorial campaign Sunday at the Northgate Community Center in Seattle.
Supporters of Bob Ferguson, at top, enjoy shrimp at the annual shrimp feed fundraiser for Ferguson’s gubernatorial campaign Sunday at the Northgate Community Center in Seattle. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — Democrats have won 10 Washington gubernatorial races in a row, but Attorney General Bob Ferguson told supporters Sunday he expects a tight matchup this fall against his likely Republican rival, former Congressman Dave Reichert.

Speaking at his annual shrimp feed lunch fundraiser in North Seattle, Ferguson pointed to the last two open-seat races for governor, which have been highly competitive.

“I understand that we live in what we consider a blue state. And I understand that every statewide official is a Democrat. But I think one of the reasons I have never lost an election — and I don’t plan on starting this year — is that I try to be very objective about my campaigns,” he said.

He recalled the 2004 governor contest — the closest in U.S. history — when then-Attorney General Chris Gregoire, the Democrat, defeated Republican Dino Rossi by a mere 133 votes in a result confirmed only after two recounts and a lawsuit.

“The people in this room more than decided that race for governor,” he said to the crowd of about 200.

In 2012, the last time the governor’s race featured no incumbent, then-Congressman Jay Inslee trailed in polling for months before eventually beating then-Attorney General Rob McKenna by 3 percentage points.

While boasting of his undefeated record and a massive fundraising lead, Ferguson said he expects the 2024 race to be similarly close.

The shrimp-feed fundraiser — his 19th — is a tradition passed down to Ferguson from the late Gov. Mike Lowry, whose annual events were well attended in local Democratic circles.

Guests on Sunday chowed on shrimp and salad at the Northgate Community Center as Ferguson mingled, with tables outside the hall selling T-shirts and Ferguson-signed copies of the U.S. Constitution.

As he does each year at the event, Ferguson paid tribute to Lowry, who took a chance and endorsed him when he was a brash underdog candidate in 2003, challenging 20-year Democratic incumbent Cynthia Sullivan for a seat on the Metropolitan King County Council.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that without that endorsement, I’m not talking to you right now,” said Ferguson, who has kept a Lowry campaign sign in his office ever since.

Over the years since that first win, Ferguson has morphed from an insurgent party-crasher to the Democratic establishment’s standard-bearer. He was elected Attorney General in 2012 and Inslee and the state Democratic Party have lined up behind his campaign for governor.

Ferguson does face Democratic competition on the Aug. 6 primary ballot, chiefly from state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who is running as a business-backed, moderate alternative.

Mullet recently protested a de facto endorsement deal the state Democratic Party reached with Ferguson in exchange for Ferguson donating $1 million, calling it a “horrible precedent.”

But Ferguson is largely looking past both Mullet — whom he has declined to debate — and Semi Bird, the former Richland school board member who was endorsed by the state Republican Party for governor in April.

He’s gearing up for a contest with Reichert, the former King County sheriff and 8th District U.S. House Representative, in November.

On Sunday, Ferguson blasted Reichert over leaked comments he made at a GOP fundraiser in March, in which he said climate change is not caused by human activity, but by “the guy upstairs,” according to comments first reported by the Washington State Standard.

In a statement to the Standard about the controversy, Reichert said he believes climate change is real but that efforts to fight it shouldn’t “come on the backs of hardworking families of Washington,” citing rising gas and energy prices.

Reichert leads Bird in polling among Republican contenders and is so far second in fundraising among all candidates, raising about $3 million so far to Ferguson’s $7 million.

He’s scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Mainstream Republicans of Washington’s Cascade conference in Yakima on June 1.

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