The race begins for Washington attorney general

Manka Dhingra, a Democratic state senator, announced her candidacy Monday, as others show signs of soon jumping into the contest

By: - May 9, 2023 5:02 am

State Sen. Manka Dhingra speaks as the Washington state Senate convenes for floor session on Feb. 28, 2023. (Washington State Legislative Support Services)

Democratic state Sen. Manka Dhingra, of Redmond, on Monday launched her campaign to become Washington’s next attorney general.

Dhingra, a former senior deputy prosecuting attorney for King County and the current Senate deputy majority leader, is the first candidate to enter the race to succeed Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson who is campaigning for governor.

“Washington has never had an Attorney General with deep experience in criminal prosecution,” Dhingra said in her announcement. “I’ve spent my career in the courtroom and State Senate speaking out for people who too often have no voice.”

Dhingra became the nation’s first Sikh state legislator when she won a special election in the 45th District in 2017 following the death of Sen. Andy Hill, a Republican. She won a full term in 2018 and was re-elected in 2022. 

As chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, Dhingra has worked to advance legislation on firearm restrictions, abortion protections and policing reform.

This past session she withstood criticism for blocking legislation giving cops more discretion to conduct high-speed vehicle chases. She would later relent and help pass a revised bill viewed as not going far enough by some law enforcement officials and too far by policing accountability advocates.

She’s also been a central figure in negotiations on the so-called Blake fix, overhauling the state’s drug possession law. She was one of a handful of lawmakers crafting compromise legislation at the end of the regular session that was rejected by the state House, precipitating a special session starting May 16.

According to her campaign website, Dhingra joined the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in 2000. In her tenure, she led a unit that oversaw the Regional Mental Health Court, Veterans Court and the community diversion program.

U.S. Attorney Nicholas Brown and Solicitor General Noah Purcell, both Democrats, and Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison are said to also be considering runs for attorney general.

In 2020, Purcell laid the groundwork for a campaign, including raising roughly $260,000. But it hinged on Gov. Jay Inslee not seeking a third term and Ferguson running for governor. That did not happen as Inslee did seek re-election and Ferguson sought another term as attorney general.

Late Monday, Purcell said he won’t make a decision until he sees what Brown does.

“Nick is a longtime friend, a great leader, and a great lawyer, and if he decides to run I will support him,” he said in a text.

Brown has served in the federal post since October 2021 after getting nominated by President Joe Biden earlier that year. 

An Army veteran, he served as assistant U.S. attorney in Western Washington from 2007-13 and as general counsel to Gov. Jay Inslee from 2013-17, according to his official biography.

This would be his first bid for elected office.

As of Monday, no Republican had registered a campaign committee with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Davison’s name is circulating in GOP circles. She was elected city attorney, a nonpartisan position, in 2021. A year earlier, she ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor but did not make it past the primary. 

Two other Democrats who had designs on the job in 2020 – former Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez and state Rep. Drew Hansen – are not showing obvious interest now.

Like Purcell, each had begun putting campaigns together but ended them when Inslee did not seek a third term and Ferguson ran to keep his job as attorney general.

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Jerry Cornfield
Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield joined the Standard after 20 years covering Olympia statehouse news for The Everett Herald. Earlier in his career, he worked for daily and weekly papers in Santa Barbara, California.