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Washington Attorney General Candidates Debate

Kate Elston

The candidates for Washington attorney general debated Friday on KUOW's "The Conversation." As Kate Elston reports, Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn disputed the role of attorney general when it comes to legal battles with the state.


Their main disagreement stems over what to do when state agencies get sued. Dunn has said Washington wastes too much money settling lawsuits. He said even when the state is found partially liable in a suit, it can be ordered to pay the full damages. Dunn said he would encourage the state Legislature to change this.

Dunn: "Thirty–six states have rolled back some measure of control, some measure of liability reform. It could be caps on damages, it could be burden shifting for fees and cost."

But Ferguson said that kind of law hasn't worked. He said instead, the state should train state workers on how to avoid lawsuits in the first place. He also said the attorney general should use judgment on which cases go to trial.

Ferguson: " ... so you're not simply settling every single case that comes along where folks know if they sue the state, they get a decent settlement."

Part of the role as attorney general is to represent state agencies even when a case is on appeal. In 2010, current Attorney General Rob McKenna refused to do that for the state land commissioner. The State Supreme Court ruled that, as attorney general, he had to. The two candidates generally agreed with that decision.

Ferguson and Dunn face off against a third candidate in next month's primary election. The third candidate is Republican Stephen Pidgeon. KUOW's "The Conversation" has also invited Pidgeon to speak on the show.

I'm Kate Elston, KUOW News.

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