Gov. Jay Inslee’s 2020 presidential campaign is starting to cause ripple effects in state politics, as state Solicitor General Noah Purcell on Thursday announced an exploratory bid for attorney general.
Purcell, who attracted a national spotlight for successfully arguing in federal court to block President Trump’s first travel ban, says he has no intention of challenging his boss and fellow Democrat, Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Ferguson has said he would be interested in running for governor in 2020 if Inslee declines to seek a third term. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Washington State Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz also have expressed interest.
An Inslee spokesman said in a text message Wednesday night the governor has not ruled out seeking another term.
Purcell’s announcement made him the first to put down a marker on the race for state attorney general.
“I am announcing an exploratory committee for attorney general in the event that this office is open next year because I want to build on the great work we have done,” Purcell said in a news release, citing more than a dozen challenges he and Ferguson have made to Trump administration proposals.
In an interview, Purcell said he has no inside knowledge of Inslee’s 2020 plans.
“If he runs for a third term that’d be great,” Purcell said, saying he’d be “more than happy” to stay in his present job.
Purcell, 39, has served as solicitor general, the state’s chief appellate lawyer, for six years. He came to the job with a sterling resume, including a Harvard law degree and having clerked for a U.S. Supreme Court justice before working for a Seattle law firm.
Purcell filed a candidate registration with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Monday. That filing was first reported by the University of Washington Daily. The formal candidate filing deadline to appear on the ballot next year is May 2020.
Ferguson issued a statement Thursday morning calling Purcell “a major part of the success we’ve had as an office.” He said Purcell’s announcement did not change his own plans: “I will decide whether to run for governor after Jay Inslee decides whether to seek a third term.”