With Governor Jay Inslee making a run for the White House in 2020, here’s a look at the possible Democratic and Republican candidates to take his spot in the governor’s mansion.
Democratic contenders for governor in 2020:
While Governor Jay Inslee has made his 2020 presidential campaign official, nothing precludes him from seeking a third term as governor should his White House ambitions not pan out. Until the deadline (May 2020) to file as a candidate has come and gone, or until Inslee himself rules out a third term, nothing is off the table.
However, Inslee told me last month that he was actively looking for a Democrat to take his place in the governor’s mansion in 2020.
“I have talked to other people who potentially could be interested in this office,” Inslee said. “We are all on the same page. We’ll have a healthy representation in the state of Washington one way or the other.”
But would Inslee give his blessing to another candidate for governor, only to turn around and run against them? Former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, the Republican who lost to Inslee in the 2012 race for governor, said it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But he noted that Inslee may be more interested in taking a Cabinet position, or running for vice president if the eventual Democratic nominee chooses him.
“Jay is a savvy politician and he knows what he’s doing here,” McKenna said. “He feels he can get a lot of good out of running, whether he’s eventually the nominee or not. I think he’s right that he can gain something by putting his name out there. I actually think it makes sense for Jay to pursue this if he wants to. I don’t see a downside to it.”
Bob Ferguson/Washington Attorney General
Q13 News has asked Ferguson about a possible run for governor repeatedly, going back to 2017. At the time, his profile was on the rise as his office launched high-profile legal challenges over policies of the Trump administration.
Here is what Ferguson told me in December 2017:
Brandi: “Do you have any intention of seeking that office if Jay Inslee were to run for President?”
Ferguson: “It’s not something I’m focused on. I’m a big fan of the governor. I’ll support him whatever he decides to do. He’d be a great president. He’d be a great third-term governor. Whatever he wants to do, I’m supporting him and I believe in making decisions when it’s the right time to make a decision. And, it’s just – we’re still in 2017.”
Brandi: “But you wouldn’t rule it out? You can’t sit here across the table and say it’s something you’re not interested in.”
Ferguson: “Yeah, I wouldn’t rule out anything … The main thing I’m focused on is doing a good job. Number two, supporting the governor on whatever he decides to do. When the time is right, I’ll make the decision and I'm happy to share with the people when the time is right.”
Dow Constantine/King County Executive
Constantine enjoys a high approval rating, as evidence by the 77% of votes he received in his 2017 race for re-election. As rumors grew about Inslee’s 2020 ambitions, so did rumors about Constantine being a possible replacement.
Here is what he told me on “Q13 News This Morning” in January.
“I would certainly take a look at it if he indeed does run for president and leaves the governor’s mansion. We’ve done a lot of great work in King County. I think a lot of the lessons that we’ve learned here could have implications statewide. But for right now my job is to deal with these major challenging regional issues: mobility, homelessness, and so forth. And I’m excited to do this. This is a great gig.”
Hilary Franz/Commissioner of Public Lands
A relative newcomer, Hilary Franz’s public profile has raised rapidly since her election in 2016. With worsening wildfire seasons and smoky skies filling the air in Seattle during the summer months, people have looked to the Commissioner of Public Lands for solutions to one of the state’s most pressing challenges. Her focus on the plight of rural communities could make her an appealing choice for moderate Republicans as someone who could work across urban and rural divides.
Reached by phone Thursday, Franz told Q13 News she is "focused on being the best Public Lands Commissioner" she can be. However, she said "a lot of people have asked me to run and it's something I'm considering."
Republican contenders for governor in 2020:
Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale)
Senator Ericksen served six terms in the State House of Representatives before being elected to the State Senate in 2010. While a veteran of state politics, his name also took the national stage when he came out as an early supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump and vice-chaired his Washington state presidential campaign.
In an email exchange on Thursday, Ericksen confirmed he is considering a run for governor, but has not made a final decision.
“I have been talking to my wife about this. The kids are all in,” he wrote.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm)
If you ask Washington Republicans, Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm, the current House Minority Leader, is at the top of the list of who they want to see run in 2020. Wilcox has been praised for his bipartisanship as well as his leadership, and – frankly – is just a downright likable guy.
But his supporters will be disappointed to hear that Wilcox has no plans to run. He told me Thursday that he considered it, “but I really like the teamwork of the House.”
Dave Reichert/Former United States Representative
After serving seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Reichert retired from politics earlier this year. While the former King County Sheriff has long been rumored as a possible Republican candidate for governor, his private spokesperson told me Thursday that he is committed to his new job as the Vice President of Tacoma-based Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs.
“Dave is now focusing on his new job that will have a tremendous impact on saving lives in Central America working with countries to establish a missing persons database. It will likely not only save lives, but prevent children from being forced into sex trafficking,” spokesperson Sue Foy wrote in an email.
Following his announcement that he wouldn’t seek re-election to the House, Reichert sat down with me last fall to talk about his life in politics and the decision to retire: “The good thing is the travel stops, the phone calls for money stop, and I get to spend more time with my family.”
Asked whether he had other political ambitions in mind, Reichert told me: “My answer has always been … that I’ve never really had a plan. My life has just sort of happened to me. God has the plan, so I have sort of been patient lately as I get older. Just watching and praying about what I might do next. I know that’s been my answer for years, that I just keep all of my options open. It’s not something that I’m seeking to do, but if I’m called to do it I may seek another office. But I doubt it.”
Bill Bryant/Former candidate for governor
While Bryant fell short of defeating Inslee for governor in 2016, the former Seattle Port Commissioner has hinted that another run isn’t completely off the table.
“That’s an interesting question,” he told KTTH’s Todd Herman in January 2017. “That’s a direct question at a very early stage.”
But this week, some Republican insiders have suggested Bryant may be more seriously considering it.
Bryant told me Thursday via email that "there is a lot of time to make that decision."
Rob McKenna/Former Washington Attorney General
While many thought the former AG presented the best hope Republicans had seen in some time of finally capturing the governor’s office, he fell short against Inslee in 2012.
Reached by phone on Thursday, McKenna told me he has “no plans to run in the foreseeable future."