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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington candidate for governor Bob Ferguson holds fundraising event in downtown Spokane

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, right, holds up his cellphone to talk about his lawsuits against Google over tracking cellphone users Monday during a fundraiser for his campaign in the Centennial Ballroom at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Ferguson on Monday visited Spokane to raise money for his campaign, just two days after the state Republican Party wrapped up a chaotic event at the convention center downtown.

Ferguson spoke at a luncheon in the Spokane Convention Center to a room of roughly 170 local politicians and community members, asking them to donate to his campaign. Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown and city Councilman Zack Zappone spoke at the fundraising event before Ferguson stepped up to the podium.

For more than a decade, the gubernatorial hopeful has served as the state’s attorney general. The Democratic front-runner is vying to beat out whatever Republican candidate clinches the party’s nomination in Washington’s first incumbent-free race for governor since 2012.

This year’s race for governor will be close if history repeats itself. In his speech, Ferguson pointed to former Democratic governor Christine Gregoire’s razor-thin victory over Republican Dino Rossi in 2004 – the closest gubernatorial battle in U.S. history. Gregoire won that race by 133 votes. And in 2012, Inslee beat his Republican opponent Rob McKenna by just 3% of the vote.

Inslee and Gregoire are not “political slouches,” Ferguson told the guests at his campaign fundraiser.

“They are very capable campaigners, very capable public servants, to put it very mildly,” Ferguson said. “And they had to fight for their lives to win their two elections. There’s no reason to think it’ll be any different this year.”

Most states don’t hold their gubernatorial elections in the same year as presidential elections. Only 11 states have governor races this year. Political action committees are pouring money into Washington’s race as a result.

While Ferguson is most well-known Democrat in the race, he also faces Democratic state Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah.

On Saturday, the state Republican Party endorsed candidate Semi Bird, of Richland, during its three-day conference that took place at the Spokane Convention Center. The endorsement came after significant backlash and anger erupted when party leadership announced they would not make an endorsement in the race. Delegates voted to overturn this decision and direct party leadership to add a gubernatorial endorsement back onto the conference agenda. Bird clinched the party’s endorsement and pulled in 72% of the vote.

Bird’s opponent, former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, did not show up to the Republican Convention and ended up withdrawing his name from the convention endorsement ballot, condemning party leadership.

“Some in the Washington State Republican Party are in such disarray that they’re considering making no endorsement for governor,” Reichert wrote in a public statement. “This, after they continually changed rules, broke rules, and twisted the process to accomplish their desired outcome.”

In Ferguson’s speech Friday, the candidate decried Reichert, saying his values align with those of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

“In his two years in Congress, he voted with the Trump agenda 93% of the time, more than any member of our congressional delegation,” Ferguson said. “Including someone you know well: Cathy McMorris Rogers. That’s saying something to be more to the right of Cathy McMorris Rogers.

Ferguson told supporters that he will uphold abortion rights in Washington if elected and work to solve the statewide homeless crisis and opioid epidemic. The attorney general also said he wants to bolster law enforcement in the state and hire more cops.

The election is set for November 2024. The primary, in which the two top vote-getting candidates advance regardless of party affiliation, is Aug. 6.