Traditionally, Washington’s attorneys general are independent and aggressive, respected and influential nationwide. Most recently, Rob McKenna has continued the state’s standard as an effective consumer advocate and crime fighter. The successes of McKenna, and those before him, legislatively and otherwise, were due in great part to their (mostly) nonpartisan approach to the job. Voters have a chance to continue this fine tradition with Bob Ferguson — who, as it happens, while a Democrat, is actually more McKenna-like — in resume and temperament — than Republican candidate Reagan Dunn.
Both candidates, currently members of the King County Council, are ambitious, experienced attorney-politicians. (Both have worked longer on the council than as practicing attorneys, the Seattle Times reported.) Ferguson’s thoughtfulness and intellect, however, set him apart. Both are hard-working and energetic, but Ferguson’s ability and willingness to quietly listen and reflect is a better match for attorney general than Dunn’s go-get-‘em enthusiasm. In an interview, Dunn twice spoke of wanting to argue before the United States Supreme Court, but not in any particular context.
Dunn’s experience as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office is important, but limited. When it comes to litigation, the attorney general’s office mostly deals with civil lawsuits concerning state agencies.
Neither candidate has that much managerial experience, mirroring McKenna’s background (in addition to very little courtroom experience), but McKenna has run the office as well as anyone.
Dunn cites his administrative positions in the Justice Department in the nation’s capital, and work at a private firm in Bellevue. Ferguson points to his experience at a Seattle law firm that fought to protect taxpayers from cost overruns at Safeco Field, and cracked down on software piracy.
In important ways, the candidates agree: Both support abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Ferguson opposes the death penalty but vows to uphold state law. Dunn opposes the national health-care law but vows to uphold federal law. (He said he would have joined the lawsuit to repeal the law like McKenna did, but would have informed the governor of his plans, which McKenna did not.)
Both candidates vow to continue the office’s consumer advocacy role, public safety push, and efforts to keep governmental dealings open and transparent.
As far as different priorities, Dunn wants to create a regulatory commission to foster reform, efficiency and accountability in the public and private sectors. Ferguson wants to create an environmental-crimes unit. (Dunn vows to shrink the office’s environmental division.) Ferguson’s plan is refreshing and important — one area needing attention is the derelict vessels that litter and pollute regional waters, with Snohomish and Island counties particularly hard hit. (Such a vessel ruined much of Whidbey Island’s prized Penn Cove mussel harvest this year.)
While Dunn has spent more time in a courtroom, the Herald Editorial Board strongly believes Ferguson’s experience, his bipartisan work on the county council, and sharp legal mind, (including his chessmaster’s ability to think dozens of moves ahead), clearly make him the best choice to run the state’s attorney general office.