Gregoire gets rolling in south King County

Gov. Christine Gregoire launched her re-election campaign April 7 in south King County, a few feet from where she once sat after school while her single mother cooked flapjacks and flipped burgers.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:11pm
  • News
Governor Christine Gregoire

Governor Christine Gregoire

Gov. Christine Gregoire launched her re-election campaign April 7 in south King County, a few feet from where she once sat after school while her single mother cooked flapjacks and flipped burgers.

Gregoire, a 1965 Auburn High School graduate, scanned the crowded banquet room of the Rainbow Cafe in downtown Auburn and found some local people she knew, including her high school driving instructor, now 81.

“Don’t ask him any questions,” Gregoire said to laughter.

Gregoire, flanked by husband Mike Gregoire and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a fellow Democrat and staunch supporter of her, spoke proudly of her record on the environment, education and the economy. She promised to fight during a second term for children, senior citizens, veterans and the less fortunate.

To win a second term, Gregoire will have to get past Dino Rossi, her Republican opponent in the bitterly-contested 2004 election and her opponent once again. Rossi, the initial winner of that contest, lost by 133 votes on the third recount and a long court battle.

Gregoire said her campaign will “be about getting results – results that families need, deserve and can count on,” Gregoire said. “I am ready with a proven track record of results.”

Gregoire said that when she became governor, Washington had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country — tied with Oregon — and now has the lowest in the state’s history.

She cited a recent Pew Research article that listed Washington as one of the three best-managed states in the country. She said Forbes and Fortune magazines recently ranked Washington among the top five states in the country in which to do business.

Gregoire said that when she became governor, the state had no plans for dealing with its transportation problems. She said Rossi, a former state senator, did nothing to deal with the issues while he was in the Legislature.

“I stuck my neck out and all my colleagues in the Legislature stuck their necks out and passed a nine-and-a-half-cent gas tax,” Gregoire said. “That takes a lot of nerve. People of the state of Washington wanted to repeal it, but (legislators) stood up and said ‘No, we are going to maintain it.’”

In a written release on his campaign Web site, Rossi fired back. He said that after nearly four years of Gregoire as governor, the state faces many of the same challenges it did before she took office. He said the state has never gotten off the “budget roller coaster,” and that it faces a projected $2.4 billion deficit, a degrading transportation system and students who still struggle to compete in math and science.

Rossi said that in the last four years, state spending has shot up by $8.5 billion, a 33-percent increase. He accused Gregoire of “total fiscal recklessness.”

“Christine Gregoire has the taxpayer credit card, and we are getting stuck with the bill,” Rossi said.

Gregoire said spending has increased much less than 33 percent. Officials in the governor’s budget office said Tuesday the better figure is $6.7 billion, about 26 percent. She said most of the new spending has gone to education and other programs.

“I love how (Rossi) plays with numbers,” Gregoire said. “Let me tell you what I walked into: We hadn’t lived up to the voters requirement that we reduce class sizes in our K-12 programs. We hadn’t lived up to voters telling us that they wanted to pay the teachers so we could put the best and the brightest in front of the classrooms. We hadn’t paid for pensions. We were cutting kids off healthcare. Those were not the values the people of the Washington wanted.”

Gregoire said when she took office, the state faced a $2.2 billion shortfall and had only $270 million in its savings account. At the moment, she said, that rainy day fund is just short of $500 million and has the capacity to double.

Dicks called Gregoire “the hardest-working, most determined, most effective governor we’ve had.” He added she has done “a great job” on developing alternative energy sources.

King County Executive Ron Sims, another Gregoire supporter accompanying her on her campaign-opening tour, said the state needs her “so we can join the rest of this country as a nation of change.” Sims lost to Gregoire in the primary election contest among Democrats in 2004.

Traveling in a biodiesel bus, Gregoire stopped later in the day in Tacoma and Vancouver, then crossed the mountains into eastern Washington. She wrapped up her tour two days later in Seattle.

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