Who Will Be Washington State’s Next Governor?
On Monday May 1st Governor Jay Inslee ended the speculation that has followed him since the end of his 975 day COVID State of Emergency. Will he run for an unprecedented fourth term? The answer...no.
In 2020 Jay Inslee became the second person, and first Democrat, to win three terms in the Governor's Mansion. The first was Republican Dan Evans who served from 1968-1980. On the heels of Governor Inslee's announcement, the speculation turned to who will be the 24th person to hold the highest position in the State
The Front Runner
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who made his intentions public today, is the presumed front runner to be the next Governor for a number of reasons. He has held a high profile elected position since 2012, successfully being re-elected twice. Before that Ferguson was a member, and then chair of, of the King County Council. He has proven name recognition and a track record of winning in the State's most populous County. If successful, Ferguson would become the second AG to become Governor. The first being Christine Gregoire in 2004.
Those Who Have Publicly Declared
The PDC is a great resource for Washingtonians as it relates to candidates running for office. Even though the Governor's race is over a year away, it takes time to run a campaign for an office that significant if you don't have name recognition, so it's not a surprise that nine people (Bob Ferguson is not one of them) have already publicly declared their intention to run. I'm going to name the three candidates who have raised the most funds thus far.
Misipati Semi Bird
Semi Bird served with distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a Green Beret in the U.S Army. He is an Associate Director of Professional Development and Community Education, Washington State University Tri-Cities. Bird is currently serving his first term as an elected official as a member of the Richland School Board after winning a seat in 2021. He announced in December of last year that he was going to run for Governor as a Republican. Bird is one of three school board members facing a potential recall during the August primary election. If signature gatherers do not get enough valid signatures by May 3rd, the recall election will not happen.
El'ona Kearney is also an Army veteran, working in military intelligence as a computer analyst. Kearney founded the non-profit Citrus County Community Alliance while she lived in Florida to help teach kids how to write legislation among other skills. She was unsuccessful in an attempt to win a seat on the SeaTac Council in 2021. Kearney declared her intention to run for Governor as a Democrat in 2022.
Laurel Wheat Khan
Laurel Wheat Khan has been the Chef and Owner of Mackinaw's restaurant in Chehalis for over 15 years. If Mackinaw's sounds familiar, it was featured on Food Networks Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Khan became known when she publicly resisted the COVID shutdowns and openly questioned the rationale that went in to who was allowed to stay open and who had to close. Government overreach led Khan to run and she declared her intention, to run as a Republican, officially in February of this year.
Who else could run?
More people than you could imagine. There have been dozens to declare with the majority never standing a chance to win. Here are a couple that have arrows pointing in their direction as possible candidates but no official word about them entering the race.
Jamie Herrera Beutler
A number of people have been rumored to have interest in running. One of the more prominent names linked to the race but nothing has been confirmed is former 3rd District Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler. Herrera Beutler served in Congress from 2011 until losing in her most recent bid in 2022. She finished third in the primary behind eventual winner Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez and Republican Joe Kent. Before her time in Congress, Herrera Beutler served in the State Legislature for four years representing the 18th District. As far as name recognition goes, Herrera Beutler rivals Bob Ferguson and many are waiting final word as to whether or not she will enter the race.
Franz is currently the Commissioner of Public Lands for Washington State, a position she has held since 2017 after being elected for the first time in 2016. Franz has done much to try and restore responsible forestry practices to the State after some brutal wildfire seasons over a number of years. Three of the worst season occurred in the last seven years, with two of them on her watch. Franz secured significant funding from the Legislature in an attempt to turn the tide. Franz has been open about a desire for the position, but has yet to make a public declaration to run.