Did Bob Ferguson go too far responding to fellow Fergusons?

State Sen. Mark Mullet (left), and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, (right) are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos courtesy of Mullet and Ferguson campaigns)

Democratic candidate Bob Ferguson pursued various hardball political and legal tactics to get two opponents who share his name out of the governor’s race — including an option the secretary of state said Washington election law doesn’t allow.

Now, rival Democratic candidate Mark Mullet is accusing Ferguson of going too far, arguing that he pressed Secretary of State Steve Hobbs to break the law. At issue is Ferguson’s demand that Hobbs redo the order of candidates on the ballot.

Mullet’s broadside, delivered Monday, renews attention on the brief firestorm ignited when Republican activist Glen Morgan recruited two other Bob Fergusons to file on May 10 as last-minute candidates in the race.

The lesser-known Fergusons, one from Yakima and the other from Graham, did drop out amid threats from the frontrunning Ferguson — who is the state attorney general — to see them criminally prosecuted for trying to confuse and mislead voters with their candidacies.

“I completely condemn what those two Bobs did,” Mullet said in an interview.

“That said, it is shocking to see the attorney general requesting other agencies to break the law. That’s how bad he wants this office. This speaks directly to Bob Ferguson’s character and that should matter to every voter in the state,” Mullet added.

Ferguson responded sharply, saying Mullet “does not” know the law and insisting there are provisions in state code providing Hobbs authority to do what is needed to alleviate voter confusion, including revising the order of candidates on the ballot.

“It’s unfortunate Mullet does not support this simple act for election integrity, but perhaps the fact that he would have benefited from that confusion explains his anti-democratic position,” Ferguson said in a statement.

A ‘spirited conversation’

When the other two Fergusons entered the race, Attorney General Ferguson called it a scheme to trick voters, dilute his vote, and prevent him from advancing past the primary.

He and lawyers for the state Democratic Party spent the weekend following Friday, May 10 digging into the two Bobs’ backgrounds and delivering cease-and-desist letters to their homes, letting them know they could land in jail if they didn’t withdraw.

On May 13, Ferguson held a press conference in Seattle, vowing to see them prosecuted for violating an 81-year-old state law that makes it a felony to challenge someone with the same name “and whose political reputation is widely known, with intent to confuse and mislead the electors.”

That same day, Zachary Pekelis, Ferguson’s attorney, sent a letter to Hobbs saying he must include occupations for all three and redo the ballot so the other Fergusons appeared behind the attorney general. The order set by state election officials had Bob Arthur Ferguson of Yakima appearing second, Bob Benjamin Ferguson of Graham third and Bob Ferguson of Seattle in the 13th spot.

After getting the letter, Hobbs phoned Ferguson to let him know he would include occupations for each but not mess with the order of names on the ballot.

“I was surprised he was asking me to do something that I clearly cannot do because it is in the [law],” Hobbs said. “He was very upset. It was a spirited conversation.”

“I think Glen Morgan and the Bobs broke the law,” Hobbs said. “So I’ve got this bad criminal action going but at the same time I have to follow the law.”

Hobbs stressed state law, embodied in the Revised Code of Washington, or RCW, supersedes regulatory directives of the Washington Administrative Code, or WAC. “It doesn’t take a first-year law student to know that,” he said.

He said he followed RCW 29A.36.131 which says the election officer “shall determine by lot” the order in which the names of candidates will appear on ballots.

But Ferguson contended a provision in the Washington Administrative Code, 434-215-060, gives Hobbs discretion to rearrange the ballot to lessen voter confusion.

“Washington state code specifically grants the Secretary of State authority to ‘differentiate between the candidates by … any other means which, in the judgment of the filing officer, fairly and impartially distinguishes the candidates’,” he said in a statement.

To do anything less, Pekelis wrote in his letter, “would represent a dereliction of duty, establish a dangerous precedent, and turn a blind eye to the criminal corruption of the democratic process.”

Ferguson said he was prepared to sue to force Hobbs’ hand. “We would have won. A judge in Thurston County would not allow a ballot to proceed with a fraudulent Bob in one place and another Bob in another place,” he said in an interview.

Ferguson insinuated Hobbs’ reluctance might be tied to his endorsement of Mullet. Hobbs said the two never spoke about his decision.

by Jerry Cornfield, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Clearly, Bob Ferguson will do ANYTHING to be the next governor for the state!!! He is sneaky and callus and I agree with Mullet’s comments about what he did about speaks to his character! If he’s willing to break the law to win…what else is he capable of doing???

  2. “ Republican activist Glen Morgan recruited two other Bob Fergusons to file on May 10 as last-minute candidates in the race. “. !!!
    Glen Morgan is the one who should reap the grief. What an underhanded awful thing to do.
    With his proxies quickly bailing out…. What is Glen Morgan all about. ? Did he do this all by himself ? I do not think it is fair dumping on the legitimate candidate Bob Ferguson. It was a very upsetting thing to happen.

    1. Learn who Glen Morgan is before you dismiss him. Directly from his channel, We the Governed: ” We are dedicated to helping government whistleblowers expose the truth in local government and Washington State. We aspire to more open, honest, and efficient local, state and Federal government. We want to encourage elected officials and bureaucrats who are willing to do the right thing. We will expose those who won’t. We are located in Olympia, Washington, but these principles are universal. Our aspiration is to bring common sense reforms and solutions to governing problems so that We the Governed can begin to live like We the People…”

      Sounds pretty good to me. Who doesn’t want common sense reforms and solutions for We the People?
      He uses the system we have to hold those elected accountable for their actions. Here is just one example – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7DA7dGltRU

  3. Rebecca, how is Mr. Morgan’s little joke on the election system going to bring us better government by the people? It looks to me like just another simple minded attempt to dump on our fragile Representative Democratic system by blowing it up as being somehow productive toward bringing about something better. All his tactics will bring us is more top down paternalistic big brother knows best political types trying to run everything. Why can’t he just pick out a candidate he likes and believes in and support him/her with time, talent and money like any normal person who really believes in democracy would do? This guy doesn’t believe in Democracy; he believes in a fairy tale where he is the Wizard of Oz.

    1. Clinton, thanks for reading my comments. I suggest you contact Glen directly and ask him the question s you’ve posted.

  4. Rebecca, we seem to have one party that thinks government is a joke and just gets in the way and another party that thinks government is the answer to every problem known to man and we can’t get enough of it telling us how to live, what kind of cars and furnaces to buy and how many homes and tall buildings we can cram into our already over crowded towns. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when surplus wealth was taxed at 70 to 90 % and a family could exist with one wage earner being able to provide a fairly decent lifestyle for a family of three to five people. Now we keep cutting taxes for the rich and borrowing money to pay the bills for a life style most people can’t afford while a few make out like bandits. I don’t think Glen is going to fix any of that with his funny stunts designed to destroy what little faith we have left in our system based on the rules of law and not the dictates of man or a ruling class. The Republicans seem to favor one powerful man or family rule while the Democrats seem to think Socialism is the hot set up. It’s all just crazy.

    1. Wow Clinton, I as you know could never write what you wrote better or even close. I agree 100% with all that you said here. It is all crazy. I wish we had more candidates running all over the country and the states and the counties and the towns etc. It is going to be an ugly 5 months ahead and probably longer ha.

    2. Again, contact Glen directly. Calling people names and assuming their intentions can lead to misinformation and a missed opportunity to learn new things. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and maybe even find things you can agree on.

      Also, I sent you an email. Let’s meet up for coffee and conversation.

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