An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bob Ferguson gets two Bob Fergusons to exit governor’s race

Closeup of election vote button with text that says 2024
adamkaz/Getty Images
Closeup of election vote button with text that says 2024

Attorney General Ferguson vowed to see those who share his name prosecuted if they didn’t drop out. A conservative GOP activist recruited them into the contest Friday.

Only one Democrat named Bob Ferguson is running to be Washington’s next governor after two others with the same name withdrew Monday.

The Bob still standing is the attorney general.

The other Bob Fergusons, one from Yakima and the other from Graham, exited before a 5 p.m. deadline amid threat of potential criminal prosecution for intentionally trying to confuse and mislead voters with their candidacies.

Robert Benjamin Ferguson of Graham, a U.S. Army veteran, issued a statement citing harassment and potential legal action “if I did not withdraw from the race.”

“I was publicly labeled a ‘threat to democracy’ by another candidate and his supporters,” he said. “Little did I know that the greatest threat to my family and myself would come from another that also carries my name.”

Robert Arthur Ferguson of Yakima dropped out minutes before the deadline. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

Both had been recruited into the race by conservative Republican activist Glen Morgan, who raised the money to pay their filing fees.

“The attorney general should be ashamed of himself. He threatens the little people as always to promote himself,” said Morgan, who said he sought out more Bob Fergusons to file.

Monday’s departures ended weirdness in the high-stakes contest for governor centered for months on four candidates – Democrats Ferguson and Mark Mullet and Republicans Semi Bird and Dave Reichert. Focus shifted in the past 72 hours to three Bob Fergusons.

The drama began Friday afternoon when Morgan’s recruits filed. Bob Watson Ferguson of Seattle, the state’s attorney general who has raised nearly $7 million in a monthslong campaign, fumed, calling it a scheme to trick voters, and to dilute his vote and prevent him from advancing past the primary.

He and his campaign lawyers responded by delivering cease-and-desist letters to the homes of the other Bob Fergusons on Saturday, letting them know their actions could land them in jail.

Ferguson turned it up a notch at a press conference early Monday, vowing to see them prosecuted for violating an 81-year-old state law that makes it a felony to challenge someone with the same name “and whose political reputation is widely known, with intent to confuse and mislead the electors.” He said he figured they got duped by Morgan into doing something they didn’t know might be illegal.

“In the final hours of filing week, anti-democracy Republicans orchestrated a cynical, deceptive attack on election integrity,” he said. “To be clear: I do not want these two individuals to be prosecuted so long as they do what is right and withdraw by today’s 5 p.m. deadline.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson pressed Secretary of State Steve Hobbs to lessen the potential harm he might face from confused voters. Had those other Bob Fergusons stayed in the race, Hobbs, a Democrat, would have decided what information to add to ballots to differentiate the trio.

Ferguson’s attorney on Monday sent Hobbs a letter requesting use of the full first name and middle name or initial for the other Fergusons and the occupations for all three. He also wanted the three names to appear consecutively on the ballot.

State election officials set the ballot order Friday with numbers drawn randomly. Bob Arthur Ferguson of Yakima landed second and Bob Benjamin Ferguson of Graham third with Bob Ferguson of Seattle in the 13th spot. In all 30 candidates filed.

Now, there are 28 candidates and the only Bob Ferguson in the race will be the 11th name on the ballot.

‘Antics,’ ‘whining,’ ‘shenanigans’

Meanwhile, in his press conference, Ferguson criticized Reichert, the man he expects to face in November, for not speaking out about Morgan’s actions. The Republican former congressman did later.

“In all nine of my previous campaigns, I have won without any games or antics such as these. I don’t support any effort to deceive the voters of Washington state,” Reichert said in a statement.

The other two major candidates spoke out too.

Bird, the state Republican Party’s endorsed candidate, said in a statement that he found Ferguson’s “whining about the ‘3 Bobs’ to be completely disingenuous when he has presided over the consistent decline of our public safety system and has personally gone out of his way to infringe upon the constitutional rights” of citizens.

Mullet, a state senator, attempted to recast the spotlight on Ferguson’s past policy positions.

“The fact that he was pushing for decriminalization of fentanyl in the 2021 session is much more important than these shenanigans,” he said in a phone call. In an online post Mullet called on the two Bob Fergusons to withdraw.

“We don’t need anything to confuse voters on the ballot,” he said on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “This is an illegal sideshow that does nothing to improve our electoral process.”

Hobbs issued a statement Monday saying that voters deserve “good-faith candidates” and “not people who pay a filing fee just to manipulate elections.”

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.