In the state's most expensive and perhaps ugliest attorney general's race, Democrat Bob Ferguson held a commanding lead over Republican Reagan Dunn in the initial vote count Tuesday.

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In the state’s most expensive and perhaps ugliest attorney general’s race, Democrat Bob Ferguson held a commanding lead over Republican Reagan Dunn in Tuesday’s incomplete vote count.

Ferguson was ahead by 6 percentage points, but Dunn trailed significantly in two of the counties — King and Snohomish — with the most votes left to count.

Dunn had said earlier in the campaign he needed at least 41 percent in King County to win statewide, for example. In the initial count, Dunn had 35 percent of the King County vote.

With about 60 percent of expected votes counted statewide, Dunn would need a remarkable reversal of those results for a comeback.

The contest featured two rising political stars and showcased the importance of the open seat they’re seeking. Outside partisan groups spent more than the two combined trying to influence the election.

“I have one message for Karl Rove and the $3 million his Super PAC spent in this state: The office of attorney general is not for sale,” Ferguson said, referring to spending by a national group.

Both Ferguson and Dunn are members of the Metropolitan King County Council, where they sit next to each other in chambers. They even claim to like one another — at least at the start of a campaign later rife with nasty, personal attacks.

The race to succeed Rob McKenna got off to a pugnacious start with its first televised debate in June. Dunn went on the offensive in his introductory statement, stressing his crime-fighting experience as a federal prosecutor, a credential Ferguson lacks.

Ferguson countered by pointing out the attorney general’s job is focused mostly on civil, not criminal law. He noted he had more experience than Dunn in civil law.

In the August primary, Ferguson won 52 percent of the vote and called the result a dream start for his campaign.

But in October, a national Republican group founded by Rove launched a $2.9 million attack on Ferguson. The Republican State Leadership Committee focused its ominous ads on work Ferguson did 20 years ago as a law student to win legal representation for a convicted cop killer on death row.

A Democratic group responded with $900,000 in ads smearing Dunn for reaching plea agreements — an inherent part of the justice system — with criminals he prosecuted.

The attorney general manages the state’s largest law firm, with most of its lawyers advising and defending state agencies. The post also provides a platform for policymaking, often with suits with other states to protect consumers.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or