He beat Trump's first travel ban in federal court. Now Washington State Solicitor General Noah Purcell, a graduate of Seattle's Franklin High School, is positioning himself to run for state attorney general in 2020 if Bob Ferguson decides to run for governor.
Today Purcell announced he's launched an exploratory committee that will position him for a shot at Ferguson's seat. His potential campaign is contingent, though, on some political dominoes falling the way many expect they will: Governor Jay Inslee, who's currently running for president, decides not to seek a third term in Olympia and Ferguson, who's filed a long list of lawsuits against the Trump administration, then makes a run for governor.
At which point Purcell, who considers Ferguson an "excellent" AG and wants to continue his legacy, would run as a Democrat to become this state's top lawyer.
Purcell sees the job as being "the people's lawyer" and said he wants to keep up Ferguson's work on civil rights, consumer protection, and defending women's access to contraception.
"I want to be the attorney general because I've seen first hand the impact the job can have on people's lives and I want to expand our work," Purcell said in an interview this morning.
In addition to defeating Trump's travel ban, Purcell, 39, said one of his proudest accomplishments as solicitor general was preventing low wage fast-food workers from having to sign non-compete agreements.
"I read a news story about those clauses and I thought they were illegal," Purcell said. "I went to the AG, we talked about it, we started an investigation, and now there's more than 100,000 stores around the country that aren't doing that."
After growing up on Beacon Hill and graduating from Franklin, Purcell went on to attend the University of Washington, where he and his high school girlfriend, Jasmin Weaver, ran an activist group seeking to make tuition more affordable. They also sued the UW over a fee it was charging students—and won. Weaver and Purcell are now married.
He went on to attend Harvard Law School, clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and then, at age 33, was picked by Ferguson to be solicitor general. He was the youngest person in state history to hold that post.
Purcell stressed he's still thrilled to work for Ferguson. "I'm absolutely not running against Bob," he said. "I love working for Bob and I'm proud of that."
He'll wait to see what his boss decides about a run for governor (or other next steps), but in the meantime Purcell wants to "start getting my message out there."
It's a big state, after all. Also, although Purcell didn't mention this as a motivating factor, there are a number of other people who are thought to be considering a run for AG—Seattle City Council Member Lorena González among them.
Purcell said he expects "a robust campaign" and is eager to get out and start telling voters about his plans to expand on the work the AG's office has done, including its work on civil rights and opioid addiction, and why he's the one who's "ready to start on the first day."