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AG candidate Matt Larkin on legality of coronavirus actions by Inslee

WA Gov. Jay Inslee. (Office of the Governor)

Governor Jay Inslee announced a closure of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and so much more on Monday, again raising questions as to whether or not he has the power to do so. We also haven’t heard much from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who appears to be allowing the governor to take the lead in the messaging.

AG candidate Matt Larkin joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss the legal implications of Inslee’s actions, and what he would do differently as attorney general.

“I was reading over the statutes this morning, and they grant him pretty great discretion on these emergency declarations … he’s taking advantage of those and rightfully so at this point,” he said.

As Jason noted, the response from some has been more political than based on the public health emergency, with a few lawmakers disagreeing with Inslee’s actions. But Larkin believes the actions are mostly apolitical in nature, and following the rules.

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“I read it over very carefully, and it’s a broadly defined statute that gives the governor broad discretion. Frankly, I think we’re all a little on edge right now, a little bit concerned, and I would say the same about the federal government’s response. I just hope the state and federal government are coordinating their responses to this,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem me at this point that Governor Inslee is doing any overreach. But I mean, I want to be clear. I don’t think Governor Inslee is the best leader in the world, and I’ve been pretty open about that. I think he is lacking in the leadership department, but in this case, I think he’s well within his rights to do this.”

So what should the attorney general’s role be in all this?

“To advise the governor, whoever he is, to stay nonpartisan throughout the process. That’s one of my biggest issues with the current attorney general is that he tends to make things as partisan as he can during issues like this,” Larkin said.

What are the legal implications of Inslee’s rules on social gatherings?

“He’s been strangely quiet throughout this process but it’s his job to read statutes and advise the governor on things that are current and happening; he’s the legal counsel to the governor, essentially, and to the state.”

Would Larkin take a more forward facing approach to the current coronavirus situation in Washington state?

“I think there’s an opportunity here, a leadership opportunity that perhaps is being missed by other statewide leaders. You only hear the governor talking. I think the attorney general could do a better job of getting out and reassuring people and being calm and saying, ‘Hey, this is not a good situation, but we’ve got it under control. Let’s stay optimistic about this. Here’s what we’re doing, A, B and C from a legal standpoint.'”

To learn more about Matt Larkin’s campaign, head to

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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