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Editorial: In good race for attorney general, we back Dunn

Two men who sit side-by-side on the King County Council are running against each other for the office of Washington attorney general.

Both have extensive histories in the law, both are well-qualified for the position. Of the two – Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson – we give the edge to Dunn. It’s a fine edge.

Both men have bucked their respective parties; Dunn by supporting gay marriage, Ferguson by successfully promoting a smaller county council. Democrats retaliated by putting him in a new district against another Democrat, whom he defeated.

Both support more open government, with Dunn saying he would create a full-time public records position. Neither would undertake, nor join, national litigation without at least advising the governor. Rob McKenna did not do that before getting the state involved in the challenge to Obamacare.

Dunn has been touting his experience as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Yet criminal matters engage fewer than 20 of the Attorney General’s Office 500 lawyers, most of whom focus on civil litigation on behalf of other state agencies.

But Dunn filled several administrative positions in the Justice Department’s Washington, D.C., office. As a senior counsel, he helped oversee the support given 93 U.S. Attorney Offices and 20,000 attorneys. He was the first national coordinator of the Project Safe Neighborhoods effort to reduce gun violence, for which he received an award from former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

He pledges to continue his anti-gun crime, anti-gang efforts.

His says his first initiative would be a revisiting of Washington laws regarding sovereign immunity that expose the state to full damages in lawsuits involving several parties. His second would be formation of a task force to look at regulatory reform.

Both are good ideas.

Ferguson, who once clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen in Spokane, says he would stress consumer protection, perhaps creating an office to handle veterans’ issues. He would also create an environmental crimes unit.

He was involved in successful litigation to protect taxpayers from cost overruns at what is now CenturyLink Field.

We do have some concerns. Dunn has said he hopes pharmacists challenging a state law requiring them to dispense the morning-after birth control bill win their case. He may well end up defending that statute. He should have kept his opinion to himself.

Secondly, an ad put up by a Karl Rove political action committee – not Dunn – is attacking Ferguson for allegedly defending a vicious killer. In fact, Ferguson was an intern helping an attorney find the defendant representation, which is a constitutional right. The ad recalls the horrific Willie Horton ad used against Michael Dukakis in 1988. It’s foul, and Washingtonians should reject such smear politics and the big money – $2.5 million – behind it.

Unfortunately, a labor PAC is reportedly poised to counterattack.

Don’t get lost in the muck. Both candidates are upstanding. We endorse Dunn because of his more varied experience.

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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.