Attorney general candidate addresses Peninsula issues

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A fundraiser wasn't the only reason Bob Ferguson, Democratic state attorney general candidate, found it good to be on the North Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday.

Ferguson and his wife, Colleen, who have twins, celebrated the eighth anniversary of their engagement Tuesday, when he happened to be in Port Angeles.

He had proposed to her on Dungeness Spit.

A fundraiser for Ferguson, who seeks to fill the post being vacated by Attorney General Rob McKenna, was held Tuesday at noon in Port Angeles.

Ferguson also attended a free meet-and-greet of Democratic candidates for statewide office at the Port Angeles Library that evening.

Ferguson almost decided to play chess for a living, he said in an interview with Peninsula Daily News on Tuesday, but the solitary life wasn't for him.

Instead, the Seattle resident and two-time state chess champion attended the University of Washington, worked at prestigious Preston, Gates & Ellis in Seattle (now K&L Gates) and successfully campaigned for the King County Council, where he now serves.

Now he's running to become the top lawyer in state government, and hopes to focus on strategies to improve consumer protection and attention to veterans' affairs in Washington state.

Ferguson, 47, wants to succeed fellow UW graduate McKenna — a Republican gubernatorial candidate, who, like Ferguson, was a UW student body president — for an office also being sought by Republicans Reagan Dunn, also a King County Council member, and Stephen Pidgeon, founder of The Faith Coalition.

The candidate filing period is May 14-18.

If Ferguson is elected Nov. 6, competing federal and state authorities will limit his ability to do much about concerns among some Peninsula residents over the U.S. Border Patrol's increased presence on the Peninsula, he said during a sit-down interview with Peninsula Daily News.

But he would be able to ask “reasonable questions” of the federal government, including any regarding the size of the agency's presence on the Peninsula, which has grown from four agents in 2006 to 36 in mid-September and will be moving into a new $5.7 million Port Angeles headquarters in June.

“The investment, is that appropriate? The size of the presence, is that appropriate?” are examples of what he'd ask, Ferguson said.

And what about taking to task the state Department of Ecology, also the focus of residents' ire over the Rayonier pulp mill cleanup project?

Not likely, he said.

“I am the lawyer for the people of Washington and these agencies,” he said. “I've got to defend the state.”

If elected, Ferguson would assign more of the attorney general's staff of 600 lawyers to spend more time on consumer protection, a function he said is “fundamental to the office.”

Ferguson wants the Attorney General's Office to be more active on issues such as large banks “not playing by the rules on robo-signings,” which is the practice of banks and lending institutions allegedly signing mortgage documents without reviewing them, which contributed to the mortgage crisis.

“Folks are struggling,” he said.

“They need to have someone in office who is an advocate for consumers.”

Ferguson also would spend time advocating for veterans and active-duty military members on housing and education issues.

He praised McKenna for his work combating identity theft but still directed criticism against McKenna, even though he's not running.

“Do I think there should be a heightened awareness on issues related to banks, robo-signings, lenders who aren't playing by the rules?

“You bet. Other attorneys general are taking the lead on those issues, and I think we should have that approach here in Washington as well.”

McKenna said he would decide, once elected, how priorities would shift in the Attorney General's Office to allow him to focus on what's important to him.

“Every attorney general does that when they take office,” he said.

One thing he wouldn't do that McKenna did is sign on with 25 other states in a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

“That's a safe assumption,” Ferguson said.

The Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the case last week, is expected to make public its decision in June.

Ferguson would have continued his professional chess life but wanted more, he said.

“I wanted to have a life that had a broader impact,” said Ferguson, an outdoorsman who has climbed the highest points in 45 of 50 states.

Ferguson did beat someone who beat Bobby Fischer, he added.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 05. 2012 5:42PM
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