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Sunday, July 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The week that was: Ferguson sidesteps question on running for governor; state of Liberty gets another try

OLYMPIA – The Legislative Building on the Capitol Grounds, from the southwest corner at dusk. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – The Legislative Building on the Capitol Grounds, from the southwest corner at dusk. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

When the Greater Spokane Incorporated delegation comes to Olympia to lobby for local issues and projects, it often gets some face time with the governor.

Last week, when the group was making the rounds at the Capitol, the governor was out of town for part of their visit, so they had breakfast with his possible replacement, Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Not that Ferguson said he was running for the office. When the question came up from someone in the audience, Ferguson demurred, saying he found his current job extremely rewarding.

“We have a governor right now,” he said. “I’ll let him make his decision first.”

Plus, his wife is intensely private – doesn’t even have a Facebook page, he said – and they haven’t talked it out, so she wouldn’t take kindly to him making an announcement at breakfast.

Of course everyone in the room knew that Inslee is considering a run for president, not looking at a third term in the governor’s mansion. In some previous years, the group had a reception at the governor’s mansion its first night in Olympia. This year, Inslee was headed back from a visit to New Hampshire.

As in “First in the Nation Primary” New Hampshire. While burnishing his fight-climate-change platform at a pair of colleges, Seattle Times colleague Jim Brunner reported, Inslee said he’d make a decision on a presidential run “in weeks, not months.”

After which Ferguson conceivably will have some time to discuss a 2020 gubernatorial bid with the fam.

Other answers

The Q and A session with Greater Spokane folks turned up some other interesting Ferguson nuggets. Asked about his most interesting case, Ferguson paused only briefly before saying it was the state’s successful challenge of the Trump administration’s first Muslim ban.

Washington was the first state to challenge the travel restrictions on residents and immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries in a case that drew national attention. The state won in federal court in Seattle, and while the president complained about a “so-called judge” and said they’d win on appeal, the administration actually decided to drop the appeal and modify the rules instead. Which prompted another lawsuit.

Since that time, Washington has become involved in 32 lawsuits with the federal government, has had some level of judicial ruling in 17, has won nine and has final decisions pending on the other eight, but hasn’t had a loser. The remaining 15 are in early stages, so there’s no score on them.

Getting involved in all those cases “was not even on the radar,” he said. “It did start the whole thing.”

Ferguson also said his years playing chess – he was a high school chess champion – taught him the importance of thinking strategically and anticipating your opponent’s next five or six moves. But sometimes in chess, as in life, you have to take “a certain amount of calculated risk,” he added.

When he tried to anticipate the reaction to the travel ban, it was very murky so he took that calculated risk, he said. “I just felt it was the right thing to do.”

At liberty to consider. Or not.

Like Randy Quaid being sucked into the alien ship in the movie “Independence Day,” the proposal to split Washington into two states and call the eastern half Liberty is baaaack.

Spokane Valley Reps. Matt Shea and Bob McCaslin are sponsoring a new version of the old chestnut, a joint resolution asking the president and Congress to do that because, well, that’s not in the Legislature’s wheelhouse.

The Republican lawmakers introduced similar legislation in the past two sessions and have yet to receive a committee hearing on the idea, let alone a floor vote that would pass it to the Senate. That hasn’t kept Shea from going on the stump to play up the idea to like-minded folks around Eastern Washington.

The idea is more than 100 years old, as The Spokesman-Review explained in 2016, when a similar resolution was filed. McCaslin’s late father, Sen. Bob McCaslin, was a fan of the concept and had several proposals in the 1990s and 2000s.

As in the past, the current resolution was sent to the State Government Committee, which has a new leader. Asked about the prospects of a hearing on the 51st state resolution, Chairwoman Mia Gregerson, D-SeaTac, said she wasn’t familiar with it so she couldn’t say yet. But hey, she didn’t laugh hysterically or say “No freaking way.”

Record agreement

The House held its first serious votes of the session Thursday on issues that could have been controversial – a new code of conduct for members and new rules for judging law enforcement officers involved in lethal encounters. But they weren’t. Both passed 98-0 and the chamber adjourned.

No one could remember an instance of such unanimity. Does it signal a pattern for the rest of the session?

Don’t count on it.

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