KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Bob Ferguson using ‘fake’ name in his run for Governor, misstated law to threaten opponent

May 14, 2024, 5:55 PM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 5:48 am

Photo: There were, briefly, three Bob Fergusons running for Governor. There's a scandal here, but i...

There were, briefly, three Bob Fergusons running for Governor. There's a scandal here, but it may not be what you think it is. (Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP)

(Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP)

Gubernatorial hopeful Bob Ferguson claimed this week that democracy was under assault because he was legally challenged by two people with the same name. Ferguson repeatedly referenced his two would-be opponents as “Robert Ferguson,” to point out that “Bob” isn’t even their given name. That, in essence, proves they were breaking a law against using “similar” names in order to confuse voters.

There’s a problem with Ferguson’s logic. The “real” Bob Ferguson is doing exactly the same thing. Ferguson’s official campaign filings list his name as “Robert Ferguson,” which is different than what he goes by in his campaign.

This isn’t a big deal, as candidates do this all the time. There’s nothing illegal nor unethical about the move. But there’s something awfully fishy with the seemingly coordinated and carefully choreographed response to the Bob Ferguson candidates controversy. And it does more than reveal the hypocrisy of Ferguson’s talking points about democracy being under threat. It explains why his team knowingly misread the law they claimed the two other Bob Ferguson candidates broke.

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Did the two Bob Ferguson candidates actually break the law?

At a press conference this week, Ferguson used former King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg to explain why the two Bob Ferguson candidates were violating RCW 29A.84.320. It’s unclear why Ferguson thought it was politically wise to use a former prosecutor best known for refusing to enforce the law, which led to historic fatal overdoses in King County (though given Ferguson and Satterberg share an opinion around drug decriminalization, it’s not surprising).

Satterberg argued the move was unlawful, specifically citing section 4: “(Using) A surname similar to one who has already filed for the same office, and whose political reputation is widely known, with intent to confuse and mislead the electors by capitalizing on the public reputation of the candidate who had previously filed.”

Intent is a very high bar to prove, so Ferguson and Satterberg leaned on the first name being used. Except, they appear to be purposefully redefining the RCW.

Bob Ferguson 2 and 3 weren’t using “similar” names. They were using identical names. That the OG Bob Ferguson focuses on Robert versus Bob isn’t even relevant. The RCW only applies to surnames. It’s certainly common for Democrats to change the definition of basic words — just ask them to define “woman” and you’ll find out. But for this RCW to apply, they’d need to redefine “similar” and “surname.”

Is the Secretary of State in cahoots with the Bob Ferguson campaign?

Ferguson and Satterberg seem to be redefining the RCW with the help of the Washington Secretary of State (SOS), who is supposed to remain neutral. But he’s very clearly not.

In a press release, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a Democrat, rails against the two Bob Ferguson candidates. His office is supposed to remain neutral when it comes to candidates. Instead, he parroted Attorney General (AG) Ferguson’s complaint.

“Voters deserve good-faith candidates who are running on the strength of their ideas to make Washington a better place to live and work, not people who pay a filing fee just to manipulate elections,” Hobbs said. “Washington’s long history of free and fair elections must be protected and preserved in every year and campaign cycle.”

There haven’t even been complaints filed against Ferguson 1 or 2, let alone a legal judgement. Yet Hobbs is declaring, as a matter of fact, that the two candidates violated the RCW.

The SOS is parroting Bob Ferguson arguments

Hobbs even includes the RCW in his press release. But he gets it wrong.

“RCW 29A.84.320 makes it a felony to declare as a candidate for public office under the name of a fictitious person, a false name, or in using the name of an incumbent or candidate who has already filed ‘with intent to confuse and mislead’ the voting public,” said the press release. But no, there’s nothing in there about using an identical name.

It’s a curious choice to leave out “similar surname.” But in another quote, he makes reference to section 4 of the RCW.

“Instances of people filing for office with names similar to well-known officeholders go back nearly a century in Washington and other states,” said Hobbs. Now he uses “similar” in reference to first names, even though the law cites surnames. Why is that?

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Is there any campaign coordination going on?

Why did both the Ferguson campaign and SOS use section four of the RCW to make their case when it very specifically says surname?

Ferguson kept citing “Robert” as a way to dismiss the Fergusons. He could have quoted section two, which prohibits someone from using “the name of any person, not his or her true name.”

“The Jason Rantz Show” on KTTH asked a Hobbs spokesperson if the secretary consulted an attorney prior to his press release on the RCW. The spokesperson neither confirmed, nor denied, merely explaining that the office “is in regular contact with our attorneys at the AG’s office, but those communications are generally considered confidential.”

Should we all rest assured knowing that Hobbs went through Bob Ferguson’s office to get guidance on a law that Bob Ferguson is using to threaten his opponents?

The spokesperson acknowledges that the office was in contact with Ferguson’s campaign — all three of them — to “alleviate voter confusion.” But the way the misleading legal argument is being offered by both Ferguson and Hobbs makes me wonder if there was any campaign coordination or if this is just a Democrat helping out a friend.

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Why does any of this matter?

I don’t particularly like the idea of two Bob Ferguson candidates running. I won’t lie and say I didn’t find it funny and amusing. But it certainly is reasonable to question the ethics of the decision to run.

But I also don’t like how Ferguson and Hobbs are handling this. We can — and should — criticize both.

Ferguson is right to be upset. But he repeatedly implied that if the candidates don’t drop out as he demands, they face jail time. He may be saying it as a candidate, but he’s still the state’s Attorney General, and with that title comes a lot of power. This was abusive.

Hobbs is, arguably, the even bigger threat to our elections. He explicitly called out two candidates for office and made it clear that he was on Ferguson’s side, echoing the very legal arguments made by the original Ferguson campaign. It’s not his role to judge the motives of candidates running for office. He’s not even the one who would bring legal action against the candidates who he thinks violated the RCW.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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