Nick Brown, former US Attorney for Western Washington, launched his campaign for Attorney General on Wednesday in a bid to replace incumbent AG Bob Ferguson, who is running for governor. If voters elected Brown, he’d be the state’s first Black attorney general.
Brown’s background includes almost a decade of experience as a federal prosecutor and several years as general counsel for Gov. Jay Inslee, where he helped put a moratorium on the state’s death penalty. President Joe Biden nominated Brown to be the first Black US attorney to serve in Washington state, and the US Senate confirmed him in 2021.
Brown spent most of his career on the criminal justice side of the judicial system, unlike Ferguson, who worked on mostly civil litigation prior to becoming top prosecutor for the state. During his decade or so in office, Ferguson showed how the right AG can protect consumers, stand up to big business, and act as a check on federal power.
In an interview ahead of Brown’s Wednesday campaign launch, Brown said he wanted to build on Ferguson’s legacy. Brown pointed to his experience with consumer protection as a judge advocate general (JAG) in the Army, where he helped soldiers navigate companies seeking to take advantage of people on military bases, such as with high interest rates on car loans.
While the AG’s office can handle a lot of cases against companies, Brown also stressed the right for individuals to take their grievances to court, but he stopped short of guaranteeing support for any state law to allow consumers to sue companies over data privacy violations. The Washington State Legislature tends to let those bills die due to concerns about frivolous lawsuits. Brown said he’d need to look at specific policy language, but agreed people need to be able to use the court to address harm done to them by companies.
Switching gears back to the criminal side of things, when it came to holding cops responsible for their actions, Brown said he’d like for the AG’s office to house an independent prosecutor to review cases where a law enforcement officer kills someone. He called it good for the public, who may have more faith in the objectivity of the investigation, and good for prosecutors, who don’t have to prosecute their local law enforcement agencies. However, again, Brown stopped short of saying he’d make getting that office a top priority.
Brown did offer a firm opinion on decriminalization of drugs, which he said he opposed. The answer offered a clear distinction between Brown and the other opponent in the race, State Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), who announced her candidacy for attorney general in May and who has already raised more than $200,000. As chair of the state Senate’s Law and Justice Committee, Dhingra urged lawmakers to consider treating drug addiction through the civil system, rather than as a criminal offense. Dhingra’s political strategy failed, however, and Brown voiced his support for the state's new gross misdemeanor drug law.
Gov. Inslee also opposed decriminalizing drugs, and Brown said he’d spoken to the governor many times about his run for AG. He wouldn't say whether the governor planned to endorse him.
However, Brown concluded his interview with a nod to Inslee’s “laser focus” on climate issues. Brown promised to build on Ferguson’s environmental enforcement work and to hold people criminally liable for violations of environmental law, in addition to filing lawsuits against polluters.
“As an Inslee alum, that is certainly part of my fabric,” Brown said.