Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his time as a chess player usually keeps him several steps ahead of his opponents.
He said that was especially true two years ago, when he sued President Donald Trump’s administration over a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“He promised to do that during his campaign,” he said. “So when it rolled out, the team was ready to go.”
Two years and 39 federal lawsuits later, Ferguson said his younger self would have laughed at the idea of suing the president that many times. He has won 22 of those cases.
“I’m surprised the administration hasn’t adjusted to losing over and over and over again,” he said.
Ferguson shared his thoughts on a career in public service, running for governor and filing lawsuits against the Trump administration Wednesday in a theater full of people attending The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Pints and Politics town hall.
Before the event, Ferguson also took questions from several area high school students, discussing his own high school experience and his path to becoming attorney general. He recommended students considering law school to spend time serving the public, even if they end up going into corporate law.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have access to justice,” he said.
He also advised students considering a run for office, or hoping to get involved in politics, to find an issue or a candidate they’re passionate about, because that’s where they will do their best work. He recalled the first negative ad that an opposing group ran against him, saying he wasn’t especially bothered by it, but running for office can be difficult for candidates’ families. He advised the students and anyone running for office to be resilient.
“The politicians who are the happiest have a thick skin,” he said.
When addressing the crowd at the town hall, hosted by Spokesman-Review Olympia Bureau chief Jim Camden, Ferguson also shared his most challenging cases. He also offered his views on controversies such as Washington sheriffs vowing to not enforce the I-1639 gun law or a new law barring local officials from helping federal agents enforce some immigration laws.
Ferguson noted he is personally opposed to the death penalty, but he has not tried to stop employees in his own office who work on death penalty cases. Instead, he separately proposed legislation to abolish the death penalty.
“It’s my hope that those law enforcement officials realize that they’ve taken an oath to follow the law. It’s not their personal view of what the law is, it’s what the law actually is,” he said. “It’s not appropriate for any law enforcement official to disregard the will of the voters.”
Ferguson also discussed what he considers the biggest consumer case he’s taken on: Comcast’s violation of consumer protection laws barring dishonest business practices. He said staff in his office reviewed 1,500 calls between Comcast employees and customers and found many Washington residents were signed up for a $5 consumer protection plan without their knowledge, consent or sometimes against their will.
The judge presiding over the case found Comcast had violated the act 450,000 times. He said his office could have settled the case, but he wanted Comcast to know if it continued such business practices, it would end up back in court.
“They can’t just write a check and say ‘We didn’t do anything wrong, we just did this to get rid of that guy.’ I wanted a judge to say ‘No, what they did was wrong.’ ”
Ferguson also discussed his plans for a potential run for governor. He said he would not decide until Gov. Jay Inslee makes a decision about whether to run for a third term. He said he anticipates Inslee will make a decision by the end of the year.
However, Ferguson said he’s focused on his wife, raising twin 11-year-old children and his work as attorney general.
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Thursday, June 13, 2019 to correct the number of lawsuits filed or joined by Ferguson and his office.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.