Former Bothell mayor and real-estate developer Joshua Freed announced a run for governor Friday, saying he’ll focus on homelessness, government transparency and opposition to a state income tax.

In a video announcement, Freed, a Republican, pointed to what he said is failed leadership from Gov. Jay Inslee and the Legislature.

“We see evidence of Olympia’s failure all around us with people living under tarps, begging next to freeways, and passed out in parks surrounded by garbage and needles,” Freed said, calling the situations unsafe and not compassionate. “We need a governor with the courage to tell the truth and change what isn’t working.”

If elected, Freed vowed to donate his salary as governor to homeless shelters and drug rehabilitation facilities. He pledged to open up state union contract negotiations to the public, slamming the practice of secret negotiations with unions that are big Democratic political donors.

Freed served three terms on the Bothell City Council and was elected mayor by his colleagues in 2014. He stoked controversy in that role when he bought part of a local golf course, after the city declined a purchase option, and pursued a high-end housing development.

While he was cleared of ethics violations in that deal, Freed faced fierce backlash from some city residents and declined to run for reelection in 2017. A deal with Bothell and the nonprofit group Forterra eventually led to the golf course becoming a public park.


Freed previously has run unsuccessfully for the state Legislature. In 2017, he championed an initiative to ban controversial safe-injection sites under consideration in King County. The state Supreme Court last year blocked a vote on the measure, ruling the initiative unconstitutional.

Washington Republicans have struggled to field better-known candidates for governor and other high-profile races in 2020. In addition to Freed, the party’s declared candidates for governor include Loren Culp, the police chief of Republic, Ferry County; state Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn; and Anton Sakharov, a Maple Valley program manager.

Former Congressman Dave Reichert briefly flirted with a run, before announcing this week he’ll stay with his job at a lobbying firm.

Inslee, who recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential race after failing to top 1% in any poll, is seeking to become the first governor since Dan Evans to be elected to three consecutive terms.

The GOP here remains on an epic gubernatorial-race losing streak, with John Spellman the last Republican to win the office, in 1980.