Bob Ferguson (politician)

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Bob Ferguson
Defend DACA rally - Seattle - September 5, 2017 - 15 - Bob Ferguson (cropped).jpg
18th Attorney General of Washington
Assumed office
January 16, 2013
GovernorJay Inslee
Preceded byRob McKenna
Chair of the King County Council
In office
November 24, 2009 – January 16, 2013
Preceded byDow Constantine
Succeeded byLarry Gossett
Member of the King County Council
In office
January 1, 2004 – January 16, 2013
Preceded byCynthia Sullivan
Succeeded byRod Dembowski
Constituency2nd district (2004–2006)
1st district (2006–2013)
Personal details
Robert Watson Ferguson

(1965-02-23) February 23, 1965 (age 58)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseColleen Ferguson
EducationUniversity of Washington (BA)
New York University (JD)
WebsiteCampaign website

Robert Watson Ferguson (born February 23, 1965) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the 18th attorney general of Washington. A member of the Democratic Party, he was first elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016 and 2020.[1] Prior to serving as Attorney General, Ferguson was a member of the King County Council.

In 2017, Ferguson was included on the annual Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.[2]

On May 2, 2023, Ferguson declared his candidacy for the 2024 Washington Gubernatorial Election[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Ferguson was born in Seattle in 1965. He is a fourth-generation Washingtonian, whose great-grandparents homesteaded on the Skagit River in the 19th century, near what is now Marblemount.[4] He graduated from Bishop Blanchet High School in 1983 and then attended the University of Washington, where he was elected Student Body President.[5] After college, Ferguson joined Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and directed an emergency services office for a year.[6]

Ferguson earned a Juris Doctor from the New York University School of Law.[7] During law school, he received a grant to provide legal assistance to the Yaqui tribe in Guadalupe, Arizona. Ferguson lived in Guadalupe for a time, assisting community members on a wide range of legal matters.[8]


After graduating from law school, Ferguson began his legal career in Spokane, where he served as a law clerk for Chief Judge William Fremming Nielsen of the Federal District Court for Eastern Washington, who was appointed by George H. W. Bush. He then clerked for Judge Myron Bright of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Midwest, who was appointed by Lyndon Johnson.[7]

After his clerkship, Ferguson returned to Seattle and joined Preston Gates & Ellis (now K&L Gates) as a litigator, a Washington Special Assistant Attorney General law firm, where he represented individuals, businesses, local governments, and Washington corporations. As an attorney, Ferguson worked with the legal team that successfully defended taxpayers from paying for cost overruns associated with Safeco Field construction.[9] He was part of the legal team that successfully challenged the constitutionality of Tim Eyman's initiatives.[8]

Ferguson worked on cases involving software piracy and successfully sued companies that stole intellectual property from Washington companies.[9] Ferguson also donated hundreds of hours of free legal advice to non-profit organizations. For example, he assisted Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation as legal counsel to turn a six-acre garden into a public park in Shoreline.[8]

After four years at Preston Gates & Ellis, Ferguson decided to run for the King County Council.

King County Council[edit]


Ferguson was first elected to the King County Council in 2003 by defeating Cynthia Sullivan, a 20-year veteran of the Council. Ferguson managed to outpoll Sullivan by about 500 votes.[10][11] At the time, the council was elected on a partisan basis. Ferguson faced no general election opponent in the heavily Democratic district. During his campaign to unseat Sullivan, Ferguson knocked on 22,000 doors in the district.[12]

As a result of the council reduction, redistricting placed Ferguson in the same district as another Democratic County Councilmember, Carolyn Edmonds of Shoreline. Ferguson narrowly defeated Edmonds.[13] He went on to defeat Republican challenger Steven Pyeatt in the general election, winning approximately 74% of the vote.[14]


Before being elected attorney general, Ferguson served on the King County Council, where he represented Council District 1, which includes northeast Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell, Kirkland, and part of Woodinville.[5]

During his time on the Council, Ferguson served as Chair of the Regional Policy and Law, Justice and Human Services Committees and twice chaired of the Council's Law and Justice Committee.[7] In 2005, he co-sponsored legislation to place a ballot measure before the voters of King County to generate revenue to improve health services for veterans and military personnel.[15] County residents approved the measure.[15] In 2011, King County voters renewed the Veterans and Human Services Levy.

When King County Executive's office proposed spending $6.8 million for new furniture for the new County office building, Ferguson pushed the County to buy used furniture instead, saving taxpayers more than $1 million.[16]

Ferguson led the effort to raise $50 million annually to assist those suffering from mental illness and chemical dependency.[17] He received the Booth Gardner Mental Health Champion award from Sound Mental Health in 2011.[18] Ferguson successfully fought for $5 million to fund public health clinics in Northgate and Bothell that were threatened with closure.[19]

Ferguson served on the Youth Justice Coordinating Council on Gangs.[20] He pushed for civilian oversight of the King County Sheriff's office. In 2006, he helped lead the effort to create permanent oversight in the King County Sheriff's office.[19]

He sponsored the Open Space Preservation Act, which protects 100,000 acres of open space.[21] Ferguson authored legislation that prevents King County from doing business with companies known to repeatedly violate wage theft laws.[22]

In 2007, Ferguson co-sponsored legislation increasing the sales tax by one tenth of one percent in order to expand mental health, chemical dependency and therapeutic court programs to reduce costly and unnecessary involvement in the criminal justice system by mentally ill and chemically dependent individuals, and to save lives. The council approved the measure on a bipartisan vote.[23] In 2009, Ferguson co-sponsored bi-partisan legislation that called on the Executive to streamline the County's procurement process. Along with Republican Kathy Lambert, Bob co-sponsored legislation that eliminated 15 pages of paper forms required to contract with King County (Ordinance 2010-0186).[citation needed][24]

Ferguson also worked to reform County government by connecting workers' wages to the economy, leading the Seattle Times to write, "This is brand new, necessary stuff in a county that can ill afford the existing approach. These changes would not be possible without the hard work of Republican Kathy Lambert and Council Chairman Bob Ferguson…Ferguson is taking considerable heat from labor for sticking his neck out on policies that may be anathema to his constituents. Ferguson's work should inspire other Democrats on the council to join him in moving the county forward to the 21st century."[25]

He co-sponsored legislation promoting the use of small businesses in fulfilling county contracts. (Ordinance 2007-0146). Ferguson co-sponsored legislation in 2011 creating a "Small Business Accelerator" program.[26] He declined to take a pay raise during tough economic times.[27] Ferguson also helped lead the effort for an independent audit of the county's election office.[28]

In 2010, Ferguson sponsored a ballot measure that would increase the sales tax to provide additional revenues to King County. Proposition No. 1 Sales and Use Tax. The measure failed 54.9% to 45.1%.[29] He wrote the law that reformed the county's public records process to ensure that citizens can easily obtain records and monitor their government.[7]

Ferguson was presented with the Landmark Deeds Award for Public Service by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.[30]

The Center for Human Services selected Ferguson as the 2008 recipient of their annual Dorrit Pealy Award for Outstanding Community Service.[31] Food Lifeline gave Ferguson a Special Appreciation Award at its annual Ending Hunger Awards luncheon.[32] In 2010, Ferguson was selected to join the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship, a program that brings together the nation's most promising political leaders.[7]

Attorney General of Washington[edit]


In 2012, Bob Ferguson defeated fellow King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn to be elected as the 18th Attorney General of Washington State. Ferguson won by a margin of more than 200,000 votes, receiving 53.48% of the vote to Dunn's 46.52%.[33]

Ferguson won despite an unprecedented amount being spent by an out-of-state group in Washington state Attorney General's race.[34] During the course of the campaign, Ferguson visited all 39 Washington state counties.[35]

In 2016, Ferguson faced only Joshua Trumbull, a Libertarian with no political experience.[36] Ferguson spent little of the money he had raised for the campaign,[37] and he was re-elected, 67% to 33%.[38] He garnered the most votes of any state candidate and carried 37 of the state's 39 counties.[39]

In 2020, Ferguson faced Matt Larkin, a political newcomer and strong Trump supporter, who said that Ferguson was too soft on crime and criticized his legal challenges of the Trump administration.[40] Ferguson handily won reelection, 56% to 43%.[1]


Ferguson sued the Trump administration 97 times, leading 36 of the cases, realizing victory 22 times, and losing once.[41][42]

Arlene's Flowers lawsuit[edit]

In April 2013 Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman and her Richland, Washington floral shop Arlene's Flowers even without a complaint by Robert Ingersoll and his fiance Curt Freed.[43]

Ferguson claimed the business violated Washington's consumer protection law after Stutzman refused to provide flowers for the couple's same sex wedding.[44] The attorney general's office sent a letter to Stutzman informing her she was in violation of Washington State's Consumer Protection Act. A letter by Ferguson called for a penalty of $2,000 and to celebrate all same sex unions. Stutzman sent back a reply that it was against her religious beliefs to do so. The attorney general's office followed up with a phone call to Stutzman, giving her an opportunity to comply with the law, head off legal action, and avoid paying fees or costs. Stutzman responded with a letter from her lawyer. The move was criticized by Stutzman's lawyer, who stated Ferguson did not have the statutory authority to file the lawsuit and that it was uncertain whether or not it was a "clear case of discrimination".[45] The engaged couple's attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union then sued the florist for damages. [46]

The couple had been previous clients of Stutzman for nine years until they had requested her services for their wedding, which she refused to do based upon her religious view on same sex marriage.[47] Stutzman filed a counter-suit, stating that Ferguson's lawsuit was an attempt to force her to violate her religious beliefs.[48] Stutzman and her attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom requested that the lawsuit be dismissed, as they alleged that the suit didn't show that the couple had suffered any financial injury to their business or property.[49] Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. ruled that the lawsuit could continue, as the time and travel spent traveling to Arlene's Flowers and finding another florist did count as financial injury.[50]

On February 18, 2015, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander Ekstrom ruled she had violated the state's anti-discrimination law.[51] On February 19, 2015, Stutzman stated she would appeal the ruling.[52] On March 27, 2015, Judge Ekstrom ordered Stutzman to pay a $1,000 fine, plus $1 for court costs and fees.[53][54]

On November 15, 2016, Ferguson personally argued at the Washington Supreme Court hearing, which was held before an audience in Bellevue College's auditorium.[55] On February 16, 2017, the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the florist.[56] In the court's opinion, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote neither the U.S. Constitution's Free Exercise Clause nor its Free Speech Clause gave the florist any right to refuse to participate in the wedding.[56] On June 25, 2018 the Supreme Court of the United States vacated this decision and sent it back for rehearing in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision.[57] On June 6, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Stutzman again, finding no evidence of religious animus.[58]

Comcast lawsuit[edit]

On August 1, 2016, Ferguson announced that the State of Washington would sue telecommunications company Comcast over deceptive consumer practices. The $100 million consumer protection lawsuit was filed over 1.8 million individual violations of the state's Consumer Protection Act.[59]

Executive Order 13769[edit]

President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which effectively banned entry to the United States for ninety days for non-citizens and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries. On January 30, Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee announced that the State would file a legal challenge against President Trump, as well as relevant administrative secretaries, to overturn the order, arguing that it was a case of religious discrimination.[60]

Ferguson filed suit within 72 hours, with statements of support from Washington-based companies, including Amazon and Microsoft.[61] In the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington on February 3, 2017, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart ruled in Ferguson's favor for a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of the travel ban nationwide.[62]

Gun control[edit]

Ferguson suggested a bill banning assault weapons to state representative Strom Peterson, which passed the house in March 2023.[63]

Personal life[edit]

Ferguson and his wife Colleen

Bob Ferguson is an enthusiastic mountain climber, backpacker, and birder, and has hiked hundreds of miles of Washington trails and climbed many of the state's highest peaks.[8] After college, Ferguson traveled around the country to see a baseball game in every major league stadium.[5]

Ferguson is an internationally rated chess master.[64] His games have appeared in local, national and international chess publications, and he has twice won the Washington State Chess Championship.[64] In 2014, he had a 2146 rating, and currently holds a 2232 FIDE rating.[65][66] He and his wife Colleen live in Seattle with their twins.[5]

Electoral history[edit]

Washington State Attorney General election results, 2012–present[67]
Election Candidate Party Votes Pct Candidate Party Votes Pct Candidate Party Votes Pct
2012 Primary Bob Ferguson Democratic 685,346 51.68% Reagan Dunn Republican 506,524 38.20% Stephen Pidgeon Republican 134,185 10.12%
2012 General Bob Ferguson Democratic 1,564,443 53.48% Reagan Dunn Republican 1,361,010 46.52%
2016 Primary Bob Ferguson Democratic 906,493 72.61% Joshua B. Trumbull Libertarian 341,932 27.39%
2016 General Bob Ferguson Democratic 2,000,804 67.14% Joshua B. Trumbull Libertarian 979,105 32.86%
2020 General Bob Ferguson Democratic 2,226,418 56.43% Matt Larkin Republican 1,714,927 43.47%


  1. ^ a b "Bob Ferguson defeats Matt Larkin in Washington state attorney general election results". Seattle Times. November 3, 2020. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  2. ^ "Bob Ferguson: The World's 100 Most Influential People". Time. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  3. ^ "Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announces campaign for governor". opb. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  4. ^ Schrader, Jordan (February 14, 2011). "King County Councilman Bob Ferguson to run for attorney general". The News Tribune. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d Young, Bob (October 10, 2012). "Attorney general's race: Democrat Ferguson is striving and driving". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  6. ^ "Bob Ferguson profile". Kitsap Sun. Archived from the original on March 17, 2018. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e "King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson to Run for State Attorney General". Bellevue News. February 14, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d "Biography". December 19, 2011. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Elect Bob Ferguson". The Herald Net. October 25, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  10. ^ Ervin, Keith (September 18, 2003). "Ferguson campaign impresses friends, foes". The Seattle Times.
  11. ^ "2003 Primary Election results". King County. Archived from the original on September 19, 2003. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  12. ^ Ervin, Keith (September 20, 2003). "Sullivan concedes in council contest". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  13. ^ "2005 Primary Election results". King County. Archived from the original on October 1, 2005. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  14. ^ "2005 General Election results". King County. Archived from the original on November 25, 2005. Retrieved October 1, 2007.
  15. ^ a b "Ferguson: Veterans Levy Continues To Provide Job Assistance, Housing And More". May 28, 2012. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  16. ^ Chan, Sharon Pian (July 5, 2006). "King County officials fight over furniture: new vs. used". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  17. ^ Ervin, Keith (November 27, 2006). "Mental illness dilemma for jail". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  18. ^ "Sixth Annual Fundraiser Successful Thanks to Supporters, New and Current". Sound Mental Health. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  19. ^ a b Ervin, Keith (May 5, 2007). "Public-health clinics get reprieve". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  20. ^ "Candidate Statement". Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  21. ^ Ferguson, Bob. "An opportunity to protect King County's open spaces". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  22. ^ "Protecting workers from wage law violations". King County. April 23, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  23. ^ Ervin, Keith (November 9, 2007). "County panel backs tax boost to improve mental health care". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on November 11, 2007. Retrieved November 16, 2007.
  24. ^ "King County Ordinance 2010-0186". King County Council Clerk of the Council. June 25, 2010. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  25. ^ "The King County Council should approve new labor policies". Seattle Times. July 13, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  26. ^ "Legislation Detail". Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  27. ^ Ervin, Keith (July 13, 2010). "Constantine asks unions to share in wage freeze". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  28. ^ Roberts, Gregory (April 4, 2005). "King County election chief under fire". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  29. ^ King County Elections, retrieved November 20, 2010
  30. ^ "King county councilmember Bob Ferguson". Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  31. ^ "Center for Human Services Honors King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson". King County Council. March 11, 2008. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  32. ^ "Food lifeline honors ending hunger award recipients at annual bag hunger luncheon and auction". King County Council. September 23, 2008. Archived from the original on June 10, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  33. ^ "November 6, 2012 General Election Results". Washington Secretary of State. Archived from the original on November 12, 2012. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  34. ^ Young, Bob (October 23, 2012). "National Democratic group strikes in AG's race". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  35. ^ Rosenthal, Brian M. (August 7, 2012). "AG hopeful Bob Ferguson: Primary a "dream start"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  36. ^ "Libertarian hopes to wrest Washington AG's office from Democrats". Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  37. ^ "Bob Ferguson easily keeps Washington attorney general post". November 8, 2016. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  38. ^ "State Races: Ferguson re-elected as state attorney general; Wyman leading for secretary of state's office". November 9, 2016. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  39. ^ Connelly, Joel (November 11, 2016). "AG Bob Ferguson: The boldest state official is the state's top vote getter". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  40. ^ "Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson touts legal wins as he faces GOP challenger Matt Larkin". Seattle Times. October 19, 2020. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  41. ^ "Federal Litigation". Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  42. ^ Gutman, David (November 14, 2020). "Bob Ferguson sued the Trump administration 82 times. What's he going to do now?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  43. ^ "Arlene's Flowers in Richland sued by gay couple". Tri-City Herald. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  44. ^ "Washington State Sues Florist for Declining to Beautify Same-Sex 'Wedding'". North Carolina Register. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  45. ^ "State's case against florist fires up gay-marriage critics". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  46. ^ "ACLU files lawsuit for gay couple denied service at Washington flower shop". OregonLive. April 18, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  47. ^ Murphy, Kim (April 10, 2013). "Washington sues florist who said no to a same-sex wedding". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  48. ^ "Arlene's Flowers Controversy Continues". KAPP TV. Archived from the original on November 13, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  49. ^ Schilling, Sara. "Richland florist asks judge to toss lawsuit". Yakima Herald. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  50. ^ "Lawsuit against Arlene's flowers allowed to go on". Tri-City Herald. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2014.
  51. ^ Kaplan, Sarah (February 20, 2015). "Washington florist rejects settlement offer after court rules she can't refuse service to gay weddings". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  52. ^ "Florist who refused to do flowers for gay wedding to appeal". Associated Press. February 19, 2015. Archived from the original on March 8, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  53. ^ Nunnally, Derrick (March 27, 2015). "Judge Fines Washington Florist Over Same-Sex Wedding Flowers". ABC News. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  54. ^ Smith, Samuel (March 30, 2015). "Christian Grandma-Florist Fined $1,001, Ordered to Work Gay Weddings but Refuses, Says She Won't Betray Jesus; State Threatens to Take Her Home, Business Away". Christian Post. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  55. ^ "Barronelle Stutzman Oral Arguments Washington State Supreme Court 11-15-16". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  56. ^ a b Thompson, Lynn (February 16, 2017). "Richland florist discriminated against gay couple by refusing service, state Supreme Court rules". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  57. ^[bare URL PDF]
  58. ^ Gutman, David (June 6, 2019). "Washington Supreme Court rules once more against Richland florist who refused flowers for same-sex wedding". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  59. ^ Lerman, Rachel (August 1, 2016). "Washington state suing Comcast over repair fees, credit checks". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  60. ^ Burns, Alexander (January 30, 2017). "Legal Challenges Mount Against Trump's Travel Ban". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  61. ^ "The Attorney General Behind The Resistance To Trump's Travel Ban". Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  62. ^ "Seattle judge blocks Trump immigration order". Reuters. February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  63. ^ "The banning of assault weapons is one step closer to becoming law as it passes the house". Retrieved April 15, 2023.
  64. ^ a b "Chess geeks rally for Bob Ferguson". Seattle Times. March 29, 2012. Retrieved December 4, 2012.
  65. ^ Administrator. "Ferguson, Bobby FIDE Chess Profile - Players Arbiters Trainers". Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  66. ^ "US Chess MSA - Member Details   (General)". Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  67. ^ "Election Results and Voters Pamphlets". Secretary of State of Washington. Retrieved February 3, 2017.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Attorney General of Washington