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Joni Balter / Seattle Times editorial columnist
And the governor in 2012 is ...
It's Election Day, November 2012. Once again, Democrats and Republicans in Washington state are in hot pursuit of the governor's mansion. The face-off is between Rob McKenna, the Republican two-term attorney general, and Bob Ferguson, the one-term King County executive, a maverick Democrat.
The young boy in the movie "The Sixth Sense" sees dead people. I see future elections. Everybody knows McKenna is the GOP's rising star who one day will run for governor. McKenna probably won't jump feet first into such a bid until he finishes the proper two terms as attorney general in 2012. He's a proper, by-the-book kind of guy. McKenna is an easy pick.
What most people don't know, and this is where the peering into the future comes in, is the name of the next-generation star in the Democratic Party. It may well be King County Councilman Ferguson, who, at 41, is at the beginning of an upward political trajectory.
So here's the prediction: Ferguson, a relative newcomer on the council, runs for county executive in 2009, then makes a difficult, but do-able first-termer's run for governor in 2012.
County executives have done well transitioning to the governor's office. Think former King County Executive Gary Locke, governor from 1997 through 2004; former King County Executive John Spellman, who served as governor from 1981 through 1984; and former Pierce County Executive Booth Gardner, who ran the state from 1985 through 1992.
In fairness to McKenna and Ferguson, neither admits they are running for anything other than the job they currently occupy. You can't — they don't — say anything other than, "I love my job and I expect to stay in it a long time." Blah blah blah.
But thinking ahead six years, both McKenna and Ferguson have that look about them.
Not coincidentally, both were University of Washington student body presidents, a few years apart in the 1980s.
So how does Ferguson cut through the muddy politics of the County Council? The place has always been a mosh pit, with numerous eager pols working to move up. Isn't Council Chairman Larry Phillips heir apparent? And where does this whippersnapper Ferguson get off even being mentioned as executive or governor?
He didn't mention any of the above himself. I am the troublemaker, because I think he has some of the right stuff.
To wit, he had the guts to challenge a political institution in 2003. Nobody takes out former King County Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan, a 20-year veteran. Nobody except for Ferguson, who shocked absolutely everyone, especially Sullivan and her pal, current County Executive Ron Sims.
No Democrats thought it was sane to support the very good idea of reducing the size of the County Council from 13 members to nine. No one except Ferguson.
Ferguson is a rookie politician and he has many years to make a lot of mistakes before any wild and crazy predictions come true. At this vantage point, he has that purposeful, driven, independent thing down cold.
He sometimes votes like a suburban Democrat. His district includes North Seattle along with Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and Bothell. He was born and raised on Queen Anne and currently lives in North Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood. He's a success in part because he is not a cookie-cutter Democrat.
Maybe it has something to do with the household in which he was raised. He is the sixth of seven children. Mom and Dad were Dan Evans Republicans. He vividly remembers Dad carting around yard signs for Evans in the back of the two-door family Volkswagen. (How do you fit a family of nine into a Volkswagen? Never mind.)
Upon announcing his candidacy against the seemingly unbeatable Sullivan, Ferguson took a year off from his lawyer job with the prestigious firm Preston Gates and Ellis.
If he was to run for office, he told himself, he would take his message straight to the voters. And that takes time. He would doorbell to end all doorbelling, 22,000 homes, doorbelling that would become a model for future politicians. Everything old is new again.
Keep your eye on this guy. He has enough of the right stuff to move quickly up the ladder. Politicians in both parties know he may well be the Democrats' new-generation rising star.
Joni Balter's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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