As the election nears, candidates for Attorney General square off

As the election nears, candidates for Attorney General square off

Jessica Perez, Staff Reporter

Local elections take place in November. Americans will not only be voting for the U.S. president, but for their local officials. 

One of the offices up for election is the office of the attorney general. Current Attorney General Bob Ferguson is running for reelection against opponent Matt Larkin.

Being attorney general comes with many responsibilities. Some of those include: enforcing laws against anti-competitive business practices, proposing legislation to have enforceable and clear laws, prosecuting people at the request of the governor or prosecutor’s office and lobbying Congress for things they believe would benefit the state. 

The attorney general also represents Washington state in all trial courts when the case involves the state’s interest.

Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson is the current attorney general in Washington state. He’s held the position for the past seven years, first taking office in 2013 after previous Attorney General Rob Mckenna. He was reelected in 2016. 

Ferguson has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington and a law degree from New York University. 

According to the Washington State Voters’ Pamphlet, Ferguson began his law career as a law clerk for two federal judges in Spokane. He then moved back to Seattle and worked as an attorney advocating for taxpayers and businesses at Preston, Gates & Ellis.

Ferguson began his career in politics when he was elected to serve on the King County City Council from 2003 to 2013.

According to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (WSAG), since Ferguson took office, he’s focused on eliminating consumer fraud, particularly against senior citizens. He’s also focused on keeping environmental protections in place that focus on clean air and water. 

Ferguson also lobbies for veteran’s rights and is in the process of helping clear the backlog of rape kits in Washington state.

Ferguson said another priority he has is addressing the opioid epidemic in Washington state.

“We have filed numerous lawsuits against large corporations who have violated the law and contributed to our opioid epidemic,” Ferguson said.

A trial against three opioid distributors will be taking place in early 2021, according to Ferguson. He also filed suit against Johnson & Johnson this past January. This lawsuit asks the company to pay Washington state the profits they have made by selling opioids here. 

The lawsuit also asks for monetary damages. If won, the damages recovered would be put towards addiction prevention and treatment programs.

He added addressing the opioid epidemic as one of his focus areas because it has had a large impact within the state.

“An average of two people die every day of an opioid overdose in Washington State,” Ferguson said. “The impacts are profound on families and on our society.”

As Attorney General, Ferguson said he has a specific role he can play in the epidemic by going after corporations that profit off of opioid addiction.

Ferguson has had several impactful lawsuits throughout his career as attorney general. 

According to WSAG, he filed a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” and won. A judge blocked the executive order as it was written.

Ferguson said he’s especially proud of the team he put together in his office.

“Their track record of success really speaks for itself,” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson is running for reelection to continue the work he’s been doing for the last seven years.

“To continue standing up for Washingtonians against powerful interests that don’t play by the rules,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said people should reelect him because he will work for all residents of the state. He referenced the Dreamers lawsuit he filed against the Trump administration as something his opponent, Matt Larkin, wouldn’t have done.

“You need an attorney general who will stand up for you even against the president,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson also accused Larkin of breaking the law while running for the office of attorney general. He claimed that Larkin has been attending crowded rallies without the use of a mask as mandated by the state.

Ferguson also said Larkin exaggerated his experience as a prosecutor. Ferguson said he requested public records and found that Larkin was an “extern” at the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office while attending Gonzaga. 

Matt Larkin

Matt Larkin

According to the Spokesman-Review, Larkin is a father of four children and owns a pipe manufacturing company based out of Everett. He is taking a leave of absence from his company to run for office.

Larkin said Ferguson seems distracted with his 80 lawsuits against Donald Trump and he would refocus the attorney general’s office on public safety if elected.

“For the last eight years we’ve seen a rise in statistics that’s alarming,” Larkin said. “From homelessness, drug abuse, crime all these things are going up. As a father of four little kids that worries me.”

Ferguson disagreed and said each one of those cases brought against the Trump administration affects Washington state.

“He always leaves out one important statistic, which is the fact that we’ve won virtually every case we’ve brought against the Trump administration,” Ferguson said. “That’s not being distracted, that’s bringing good cases.”

Thirty-six of those cases have been decided and Ferguson has won 35.

To crack down on crime specifically, Larkin wants to increase funding for law enforcement agencies so they can get training to better serve the community. A specific one Larkin mentioned was de-escalation training.

Larkin added there’s a lot of ways these issues can be dealt with, but the first step is to acknowledge there’s a problem.

“We don’t have that from Olympia right now, they don’t seem to think that it’s a problem,” Larkin said.

Another way Larkin wants to control crime is by further enforcing drug laws by increasing prosecutions. He said many times these people are arrested for having drugs, but the charges are dropped.

“It’s de facto legal,” Larkin said. “You can get away with seven to eight grams of heroin on you.”

Larkin said he would support legislation that would give people the option to choose between attending a drug rehabilitation program or jail if they’re arrested for possessing drugs.

Another of Larkin’s goals is making Washington state a more business-friendly state by lobbying for less restrictive business laws.

“It’s a very unfriendly state to do business in,” Larkin said. “Any business owner in Washington state will tell you that.”

Larkin has a Bachelor of Arts from Westmont College, a law degree from Gonzaga University and a Masters of Law from the George Washington School of Law.

Larkin said his proudest accomplishment was working in the White House under President George W. Bush as a speechwriter and legal advisor.

According to Ballotpedia, Larkin’s focus areas are combating homelessness, drug abuse and crime control.

Larkin said people should vote for him because he’ll bring a new perspective to the office of attorney general, since he is not a career politician. If he is elected, Larkin said his biggest goal would be making Washington state a safer place to live.

“I’m running on passion. Every day I wake up and I realize I’m running for my kids and for their kids,” Larkin said.

According to Ballotpedia, during the primary election, Ferguson got 55.8% of the votes and Larkin got 23.7%. 

The last day to register to vote in Washington is Oct. 26, and Election Day is Nov. 3. Washingtonians have the option to vote by mail or to drop their ballots off at a local dropbox.