A national Republican group said today it will spend at least $1 million in the state attorney general’s race backing Reagan Dunn and criticizing his Democratic opponent Bob Ferguson, who held a double-digit lead in one recent poll.
The Republican State Leadership Committee announced that it was going to run TV and radio ads in Washington — starting “any minute” according to an RSLC spokesman — as a part of a seven-figure buy in the Seattle, Spokane, Portland and Yakima markets. The spending underscores the importance of the Washington state attorney general’s race.
A 30-second TV ad on the RSLC website highlights Dunn’s background as a criminal prosecutor and Ferguson’s lack of similar experience. Ferguson has stressed that vast majority of the AG’s job involves civil not criminal law, representing state agencies and clients. The office has 494 lawyers doing that work and just 17 handling criminal cases at the request of county prosecutors.
The ad attacks Ferguson for work he did 20 years ago in law school helping to get legal representation for death row inmates. One such inmate, Ronald Turney Williams, was a convicted cop-killer. The ad spotlights a comment by Ferguson to a law journal. “It was a great feeling,” Ferguson said at the time about helping the convict get legal representation. “The reason I went to law school was to work against the death penalty.”
Ferguson is personally opposed to the death penalty. But he has said he would vigorously defend the state’s right to capital punishment if he is AG.
In a statement responding to the ad, Ferguson noted that he was endorsed by 15 elected county prosecutors and the Washington State Troopers Association. He included a statement from troopers association President Tom Pillow, which says, in part: “Bob has supported principles and issues that are critical to every trooper both professionally and personally.”
The RLSC is a group that helps elect state-level GOP officeholders. The group spent nearly $500,000 helping Rob McKenna’s campaign for attorney general four years ago. This year’s race in Washington state is a priority for national groups representing both parties. The attorney general’s post can be a springboard to higher office. Nationwide there are currently 25 Democratic AGs and 25 Republican AGs. The RSLC is particularly interested in keeping Washington’s AG in the GOP column, according to spokesman Adam Temple.
Its pro-Dunn campaign is considered an independent expenditure, meaning the RSLC cannot coordinate with Dunn in any way under campaign finance rules.
Top donors to the RSLC, according to the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics, include Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Wal-Mart, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, Citigroup, Reynolds American and Devon Energy.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association might attempt to counter the GOP attack. But the group’s executive director, Travis Berry, said he wasn’t going to reveal its strategy. “We’ve always expected Karl Rove and national Republicans to come in and save Reagan Dunn’s flailing candidacy,” Berry said, adding that Rove was a founder of the RSLC.