Gov. Jay Inslee arrives at the University of Washington’s Hans Rosling Center for Population Health ahead of signing several bills aimed at protecting reproductive health and gender-affirming care in Washington, April 27, in Seattle. On Monday, Inslee announced he does not plan to seek a fourth term. (Lindsey Wasson / Associated Press)

Gov. Jay Inslee arrives at the University of Washington’s Hans Rosling Center for Population Health ahead of signing several bills aimed at protecting reproductive health and gender-affirming care in Washington, April 27, in Seattle. On Monday, Inslee announced he does not plan to seek a fourth term. (Lindsey Wasson / Associated Press)

Editorial: Only strong candidates need apply for governor

With Gov. Inslee deciding not to seek a fourth term, both parties should put forward their best.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement Monday morning that he would not seek a fourth — and record-tying — term as governor, now opens the way for a series of knock-on announcements from those who previously have been identified as potential candidates.

With more than a year left of his third term, it’s a little early for retrospectives of his legacy, just as putting up yard signs for the next governor’s election would be premature. But Inslee’s decision not to run again means that potential candidates can begin their fundraising and other preparations.

Potential Democratic challengers have deferred to Inslee in the last two elections. While Republican candidates have only lost ground in running against Inslee. After then-state Attorney General Rob McKenna mounted a challenge to the former member of Congress in the 2012 election, finishing 3 percentage points behind Inslee, the GOP fell further behind in the following contests; with former Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant by 8.75 points in 2016; and small town police chief and election denier Loren Culp by 13.5 points in 2020.

With Inslee “ready to pass the torch,” here’s the opportunity, then, for both parties — and perhaps an independent or two — to step up and offer the state’s voters a strong, experienced and serious field of candidates. And for Republicans, whose last state-wide elected official was former Secretary of State Kim Wyman, here’s the chance and expectation for it to find someone to lead their ticket with broader appeal than the bomb-throwing zealots Donald Trump backed in recent state and congressional races.

You can’t have a horse race without polls, and already, at least one statewide poll has pitched names at voters. In March, the Northwest Progressive Institute asked Public Policy Polling to offer four potential candidates to voters, split evenly among landlines and cell phones. Respondents were given the option of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat; State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, a Democrat; Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, the poll’s only Republican; and King County Executive Dow Constantine, a Democrat; Constantine, shortly after the poll results were announced, said he would not run for governor in 2024, citing the work ahead of him as executive.

The results: Dammeier led the poll with 35 percent, followed by Ferguson at 21 percent, and 7 percent each for Franz and Constantine; 30 percent replied they were undecided.

Pollsters expected Dammeier to perform as he did — as the only Republican in the poll’s field — and it squares with the early statewide support shown other Republicans in previous races, including 36 percent for Susan Hutchinson and Tiffany Smiley’s 37 percent in their respective runs for U.S. Senate in 2018 and 2022.

But of interest to Snohomish County Republicans will be Dammeier’s reception in North Puget Sound counties where he received 40 percent support, to 20 percent for Ferguson and 7 percent for Franz. Dammeier hasn’t publicly expressed an interest in running — as both Ferguson and Franz have — but the institute chose him as a credible GOP candidate, noting his leadership of the state’s second largest county and that he is term-limited from running again for executive.

At the same time, Democratic voters should find enticing a primary with Franz and Ferguson if not others.

Ferguson, first elected to head the largest legal firm in the state in 2012, has been prominent in statewide and national headlines throughout his career, notching a number of legal wins against the Trump administration and more recently in cases involving opioid settlements and abortion rights, including filing a suit that was key in blocking a Texas judge’s ruling to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone.

Franz, now in her second term as head of the Department of Natural Resources, has skillfully worked with the Legislature to win funding not just to support DNR’s wildlands firefighting work, but to provide for forest health and resilience and fire prevention. At the same time she has worked to diversify the state’s portfolio of lands and their leases, including those for wind and solar generation and even for production of carbon credits.

Inslee’s decision not to run for a fourth term allows him to wrap up a three-term legacy that has provided a model for other states on addressing climate change, limiting gun violence, beginning to address a regressive tax system, among other accomplishments.

At the same time, it allows more oxygen to those who can being their work to introduce and better acquaint themselves to state voters.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

A map of the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Set your muscle memory for work zone speed cameras

Starting next summer, not slowing down in highway work zones can result in a $500 fine.

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, May 31

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

File - A teenager holds her phone as she sits for a portrait near her home in Illinois, on Friday, March 24, 2023. The U.S. Surgeon General is warning there is not enough evidence to show that social media is safe for young people — and is calling on tech companies, parents and caregivers to take "immediate action to protect kids now." (AP Photo Erin Hooley, File)
Editorial: Warning label on social media not enough for kids

The U.S. surgeon general has outlined tasks for parents, officials and social media companies.

Anabelle Parsons, then 6, looks up to the sky with binoculars to watch the Vaux's swifts fly in during Swift's Night Out, Sept. 8, 2018 in Monroe. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Birders struggle with legacy, name of Audubon

Like other chapters, Pilchuck Audubon is weighing how to address the slaveholder’s legacy.

Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, left, and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, right, embrace after a special session to figure out how much to punish drug possession on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Olympia, Wash. Without action, Washington's drug possession law will expire July 1, leaving no penalty in state law and leaving cities free to adopt a hodgepodge of local ordinances.  (Karen Ducey/The Seattle Times via AP)
Editorial: With law passed, make it work to address addiction

Local jurisdictions, treatment providers, community members and more have a part in the solutions.

Comment: Regulating social media to help kids won’t be easy

The concerns are justified but any regulation will have to find a way around the First Amendment.

Comment: U.S. needs more housing, just not public housing

What government can do, as Washington state is doing, is get out of the way of private developers.

Comment: Why the GOP is holding on to its racial resentment

Republicans, rather than adapt to a multicultural society, have elected to undermine democracy itself.

Comment: Anti-trans boycott of Target misses its target

Those upset by the presence of LGBTQ+ communities seek comfort in denying their existence.

Most Read