Jul 12, 2023 - Politics

State attorney general race intensifies as Nick Brown enters

Nick Brown (left) and Manka Dhingra (right) are vying for Washington state attorney general. Photos courtesy of the campaigns

Former U.S. Attorney Nick Brown will run for Washington state attorney general, competing against state Sen. Manka Dhingra, who has already declared her candidacy. Both are Democrats.

Driving the news: Brown formally announced his bid for attorney general Wednesday, after resigning from the U.S. Attorney’s office last month.

Context: Washington hasn't had an open race for attorney general in more than a decade. But the job is wide open in 2024 because the current officeholder, Democrat Bob Ferguson, has announced he is running for governor.

Why it matters: The attorney general's job is to represent the state's legal interests, which can at times mean filing consumer protection lawsuits on behalf of Washingtonians, or challenging federal regulations state officials feel are harmful.

Zoom in: Brown, who formerly served as Gov. Jay Inslee's general counsel, was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington in October 2021, becoming the first Black person to hold the job.

  • Dhingra, a King County senior deputy prosecutor, won a special election to the state Senate in 2017. She now chairs the state Senate Law and Justice Committee and serves as a deputy Senate majority leader.
  • Either candidate, if elected, would be the first person of color to serve as Washington’s attorney general. Dhingra is an Indian-American immigrant.
  • As of early Wednesday morning, no other candidates had filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicating they plan to seek the job.

What they're saying: Brown told Axios Tuesday that the attorney general's office has an important role in helping build a safe community for everybody, which includes "being the watchdog for external threats" and “protecting voting rights, protecting individual liberties, making sure people have safe access to abortion and healthcare."

  • "The threats against our democracy are more acute now I think than they've ever been, at least in my lifetime," he said.
  • Brown said he also thinks the attorney general's office can take on "a more robust role" when it comes to enforcement of environmental regulations.

Meanwhile, Dhingra said in a recent campaign announcement that, if elected, she would "lead nationally on laws that safeguard worker rights, hold polluters accountable, and address the epidemic of gun violence."

  • "Challenging injustices and keeping our families and communities safe has always been my north star," Dhingra said in the announcement.

What's next: Expect heavy fundraising in this race over the next year.

  • To officially appear on the ballot in 2024, candidates must file additional paperwork with the secretary of state's office next spring.

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