Raul Garcia drops WA governor bid after Dave Reichert announces run

Garcia will instead run for U.S. Senate. The two Republican candidates have already endorsed each other and consulted before Garcia's announcement.

A picture of the Washington Capitol in Olympia.

The Capitol building in Olympia, which houses the Washington governor's office. (Photo by Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Yakima physician Raul Garcia has decided to drop his campaign for governor and instead run for U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell. The switch, announced Friday, comes less than a week after former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert began his own Republican bid for governor.

The two candidates consulted on the decision, according to a statement from Garcia’s campaign, and they are now endorsing each other for the 2024 elections.

“We want to unite the party and support each other,” Garcia said in prepared remarks. “Instead of fighting each other we can work together and build a strong top of the ticket determined to bring solutions for Washington.”

An email to Reichert’s campaign seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

The 2024 election is a long way off, with the August 2024 primary looming as a key test, especially in a crowded field for the open governor seat. Friday’s announcement by Garcia shows that Reichert is already making some waves in the Republican field.

A former elected King County Sheriff who had a hand in apprehending the Green River Killer, Reichert went on to win seven terms in Congress from Washington’s purple Eighth District, which straddles the Cascade Mountains. He announced he wouldn’t run again in 2018, and that year Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Issaquah, won the open seat and has since been re-elected.

In an announcement video, Reichert said he would work “to protect the vulnerable, to help small businesses, and keep people safe.”

“I've spent an entire lifetime devoted to those three things,” he added.

In the race for governor so far, two statewide Democratic officeholders – Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz – are also exploring bids. State Sen. Mark Mullet, a moderate Democrat from Issaquah, is also running. Meanwhile, further on the right is Semi Bird, a Richland School Board member who is running as a Republican.

Democrats are also taking note of Reichert’s entry into the race. On Friday, Franz’s campaign criticized Reichert for, among other things, voting to restrict abortion while in Congress.

“As the only woman running for governor of either party, I am the only candidate who intimately and personally understands this issue,” Franz said in the statement.

Garcia, an emergency physician from Yakima, briefly ran for governor in 2020 with the support of moderate Republicans. He got a late start in that year’s election season and didn’t clear the top-two August primary.  

Now he aims to unseat Cantwell, a Democrat first elected in 2000 who currently chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Her campaign has about $1.57 million on hand as of March, according to federal campaign disclosure records.

For his Senate bid, Garcia said in the statement, “I bring my background as a scientist and a doctor to resolve the root of the problem instead of just putting bandaids on things.”

“I will be a present U.S. Senator who truly listens and will bring solutions instead of politics to the office,” he added.

While candidates have filed paperwork to raise money for campaigns, candidates won’t formally file to run in the 2024 election until next May.

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