Rantz Exclusive: Secretary of State says AG Bob Ferguson demanded he break law in vulgar tirade

May 22, 2024, 7:28 PM | Updated: May 23, 2024, 10:44 am

Bob Ferguson...

From left, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs; Attorney General Bob Ferguson (Photos courtesy of Washington State government)

(Photos courtesy of Washington State government)

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said Attorney General Bob Ferguson unleashed an angry tirade on him, demanding he break the law and change the order of the ballot. The illegal move would have benefitted his own campaign. Ferguson’s demand, made in a phone call, came as he publicly claimed he was championing election integrity.

Ferguson was upset when two other people with the exact same name legally filed to run for governor. One Ferguson is from Yakima, and the other from Graham. Both insist they were running because they think they’d be better than the Attorney General at running the state.

“It was so stressful with the three Bobs and (Attorney General) Bob Ferguson yelling at me. Oh man, I was so mad,” Hobbs said. “It’s like, I just took it because it’s like, I get it, he’s upset.”

But then Hobbs said he was asked to break the law.

“And then he wanted me to reorder the ballot. I was like, ‘I can’t do it,'” Hobbs said.

The secretary of state said Ferguson responded: “Bull***t! You could push the envelope!”

“No, actually, I can’t do that,” Hobbs said he told Ferguson.

Hobbs’ retelling of the phone call was caught on an open mic. “The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH” has reviewed the audio and Hobbs, through a spokesperson, did not deny the veracity of the quotes.

UPDATE (5/23/24, 10:40 a.m.): On May 23, a spokesperson indicated he did not agree with my characterization that he did not deny the veracity of the quotes, arguing I didn’t offer the full exchange. I then provided the quotes outlined above – three times – and asked if he denied them. He again did not deny their veracity.

More from Jason Rantz: Bob Ferguson using ‘fake’ name in his run for Governor, misstated law to threaten opponent

Why did Bob Ferguson think he could get the Secretary of State to break the law?

Under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 29A.36.131, the order of candidates appearing on the ballot is determined randomly. The Attorney General Bob Ferguson was not slated to appear first. Concurrently, Ferguson threatened the two other Fergusons, saying if they didn’t drop out of the race, they would face jail time.

The Ferguson campaign, in a statement to the Washington Standard, claimed that Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 434-215-060 allows Hobbs to rearrange the ballot if it would address potential voter confusion. Ferguson claims he would have sued to rearrange the ballot order and that “a judge in Thurston County” would agree with him. He didn’t name the judge.

But Ferguson is wrong on the law, a troubling fact given he’s the Washington state Attorney General. His attorney also made this demand in a letter to Hobbs.

Washington RCW always supersedes the WAC. Hobbs, sniping at Ferguson in an interview with the Washington State Standard, said that “It doesn’t take a first-year law student to know that.”

Consistent with the law, Hobbs reached out to the Ferguson candidates to explain that he would list their occupations next to their names on the ballot in order to mitigate any voter confusion.

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson went too far

Ferguson’s angry response to the situation is understandable. But his aggression and willful disregard for the law, insisting a state agency knowingly violate the law, is a step too far. His Democrat opponent, State Senator Mark Mullet, said this incident revealed the Attorney General’s true character.

“I thought the two ‘fake’ Bobs should have withdrawn. I’m glad they did withdraw. I think anything that’s confusing voters isn’t helping in the process. And to me, that was really important. But I was also shocked. I mean, shocked that our Attorney General basically emailed and instructed the Secretary of State to break the law to rearrange the ballot because the law is very clear that the Secretary of State should have listed their professions had the other Bobs not withdrawn,” Mullet told “The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.”

Mullet, a moderate and pro-business and law enforcement Democrat alternative to Ferguson, argued that “asking somebody to break the law for your political advantage was pretty aggressive.”

“But to me, this highlights Bob Ferguson’s character, which is he’s going to do whatever is best for him to get elected,” Mullet said. “And that’s going to be his number one compass. And I think it does speak to his character. And I think it is important for voters to understand that’s how he’s going to operate because he’s already operating that way in trying to get into the office. It’ll just be more of the same that he’s actually in the office. And I think we need to have someone in the governor’s office whose focus isn’t on getting reelected, but is focused on doing what is right. Clearly, it wasn’t right to ask the Secretary of State to rearrange the ballot.”

‘This guy has a long history of doing things like this to people’

Conservative activist Glen Morgan helped the two other Fergusons navigate the filing process to run for governor. He also condemned Ferguson’s unprofessional behavior.

Ferguson argued that the “immediate knee-jerk reaction” of threatening jail time is indicative of a power-hungry politician willing to do anything to get into power. And, he claimed, this is a trend with Ferguson.

“This guy has a long history of doing things like this to people, whether it’s small restaurant owners, or flower shops, or you know, anything else, state workers, state ferry workers. This abusive default, to attack people, particularly people who don’t have the resources to defend themselves. That’s who you’re looking at as the guy running for governor right now. The worst possible tendency of anybody running for office is somebody who has a desire to abuse their position to attack their political enemies, and people who they think are too small, or they don’t have the power to fight back. And that’s exactly what’s been illustrated and exposed in this case.”

Ferguson did not respond to a request for comment.

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Rantz Exclusive: Secretary of State says AG Bob Ferguson demanded he break law in vulgar tirade