When the filing period for candidates interested in running for elections in Washington state closed last Friday at 5pm, three people named Bob Ferguson were listed in the Governor's race.

One is the current Attorney General of Washington and the leading Democrat in a field of over 30 candidates.  The other two were last minute filings by Bob Ferguson, a veteran of the military who lives in Graham and Bob Ferguson of Yakima, a retired state employee.

Both were apparently recruited to file for the office of Governor and pay a $2,000 filing fee by a conservative political activist, Glen Morgan who told the Seattle Times he would have tried to recruit more Bob Ferusons to file if he had more time.

The lesser known Fergusons both dropped out of the race abruptly on Monday after the better know Ferguson threatened them with criminal charges if they didn't drop out by a 5pm deadline.

It turns out an RCW on the books in Washington since 1943 makes it a felony to file for office if you have the same or similar sounding name to a well-known candidate if the intent is to deceive voters.

Well, I decided to contact the Secretary of State Steve Hobbs office for clarification because there seems to be some discrepancies in the law you might like to consider.

Secretary Hobbs wrote in a press release on Monday, May 13th press release:

"RCW 29A.84.320 makes it a felony to declare as a candidate for public office under the name of a fictitious person, a false name, or in using the name of an incumbent or candidate who has already filed “with intent to confuse and mislead” the voting public."

That struck me as odd in that what happens if someone with the same name as the incumbent office holder wanted to challenge the office holder?  Are they forbidden by the bad luck of sharing the same name?  In this case, Bob Ferguson is not the incumbent Governor of Washington, the filing is not for his current office of Attorney General.  What if the lesser known Bob Fergusons had filed for the Governor's race BEFORE the better known Bob Ferguson had filed his paperwork?  Does AG Ferguson get first dibs because he is the better known "Bob Ferguson"?

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The Secretary of State's office provided a response to these questions via email, explaining that the 1943 law seemed to be the result of the 1940 election when a political newcomer named O.C. Martin challenged Public Lands Commissioner Albert C. Martin.  Commissioner Martin failed to advance out of the primary election.

Lawmakers also provided a remedy to label the ballot to indicate candidates with "incumbent" or some other descriptors to help voters differentiate between candidates.

That doesn't seem to be the way AG Ferguson wanted to react to the scenario of three people named Bob Ferguson on the Aug. 6th primary ballot and he instead chose to threaten his opponents with legal action.

You can read the actual text of the 1943 law as passed below.

PDF-1943 Law Candidate Names

Ferguson was within his rights according to the law.

Glen Morgan, the man who recruited the two Bobs may also face legal jeopardy according to the RCW, since it appears the intent to place multiple names on the ballot was to try and split up votes that AG Ferguson needs to advance out of the Top Two primary and into the General election in November.

The question I'm left with is, while unlikely, is anyone who happens to have the same name as a current officeholder in Washington state at a disadvantage because the incumbent or better known candidate essentially gets first dibs on the name?

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Gallery Credit: Reesha Cosby