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SGN INTERVIEW: Gov. Gregoire looks forward to next four years
SGN INTERVIEW: Gov. Gregoire looks forward to next four years
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

"One four-year term is not enough to do everything we want to do for Washington," says Governor Christine Gregoire. "We came in wanting to address a number of significant issues, and we've made progress, but we still have more to do."

Gregoire is running for re-election this year, against a field of eight other candidates. For the first time in Washington State history, the top two candidates in primary voting will advance to the general election in November, regardless of political party affiliation. The primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, August 19. Gregoire, a Democrat, is expected to advance to the general election against Republican Dino Rossi.

Gregoire points with pride to the achievements of her first term. "Healthcare reform, economic development, and for the LGBT community, obviously, the most significant was the passage of civil rights legislation."

"It was not easy," she says, recalling her work in 2005 and 2006 to pass the Anderson-Murray civil rights bill, "and I don't think special credit should be given to me after 30 years of struggle for it, but I did work hard to help pass it. In the House, Ed Murray made it all happen. I didn't have to do anything in the House. But the concern was the Senate. How to get the votes in the Senate? And I phoned Senators, I met with them, I went to the floor of the Senate to talk with them&" The Washington State Senate eventually passed the measure by a vote of 25-23. The State House of Representatives had already passed the legislation, and Governor Gregoire signed it into law on February 1, 2006.

"We had to make people understand that these were equal rights, not special rights," she says. "The legislation supported the values of the people of Washington&you treat people equally."

Looking forward to her second term, Gregoire says, "We're not finished with all we need to do. There's much more work to do to be sure that the LGBT community has equal rights. There's also the problem of enforcement. There has to be clear enforcement."

Polling suggests Gregoire will indeed win a second term, and by a more comfortable margin than the 129 votes by which she edged out Dino Rossi in the 2004 election. Rasmussen polls earlier this month showed 49% supporting Gregoire and only 43% favoring Rossi. When "leaners" are included, Gregoire leads 52% to 44%. Nevertheless, Gregoire's lead has declined from 11 points in May.

Gregoire bristles when asked about the negative advertising aimed at her by her Republican opponents, especially the infamous "Casino" ad which alleges she took pay offs from Native gaming interests. "I really hoped this would be a positive election, and we'd debate policy. But the other side is spending $1 million on these ads. People say they don't like negative ads, but they work&" she says.

The controversy revolves around a 2005 compact between the State of Washington and the Spokane Tribe to resolve a 15 year long dispute over the tribe's gambling operations. Twenty-seven of the state's 29 federally recognized tribes eventually signed on to the Spokane compact provisions. Although the agreement enjoyed bi-partisan support when Gregoire negotiated it, supporters of Republican candidate Dino Rossi allege that she killed a proposal for sharing gambling revenue with the State Treasury in return for Native contributions to the Democratic Party's campaign fund.

"The people of Washington need to know my integrity is beyond reproach," Gregoire insists. "If we'd opted for revenue-sharing, federal law would require us to allow unrestricted state-wide gaming. The voters rejected that several times, the most recent one being in 2004 when I was elected Governor. We were doing what the voters told us to do."

Washington voters rejected I-892 - which would have allowed unrestricted electronic scratch ticket gambling - by a margin of 61.6% to 38.4% in 2004. There was bi-partisan opposition to I-892, including the late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, a prominent Republican.

Among the other accomplishments of her first term, Gregoire names economic growth. "When I was elected, the state had the highest unemployment rate in the country. We created 200,000 new jobs - 21st Century jobs. When we think of aerospace we think of Everett Boeing, but now we have a growing aerospace industry in Spokane, with a $1 million apprenticeship program to train the workforce we need."

"25,000 new jobs are green collar jobs," she adds. "We are now the third state in the country in wind and solar power. We are diversifying our economy in a green direction. We have a growing solar manufacturing industry in Moses Lake."

Gregoire notes that when she took office in January 2005, Washington had a state budget deficit of $2.2 billion. In her 2007-2009 budget she was able to increase state funding for education, healthcare and other vital services and still retain a surplus of almost $1.4 billion. Under her administration, Washington State, which has been heavily dependent on foreign trade, doubled its exports. Business journal Forbes Magazine named Washington one of the top five states in the U.S. to do business.

Another of Gregoire's ongoing priorities is healthcare, she says. "When I took office, there were 46,000 of our kids in danger of losing their healthcare coverage. In the 2003-2005 budget they did cut kids off. Dino Rossi sponsored that. I don't think that's the values of the state of Washington."

In her second term, Gregoire looks forward to expanded healthcare coverage. "Our immediate goal is for all kids to have quality affordable healthcare. This is morally responsible, but it's also fiscally responsible. If we don't treat kids in an affordable healthcare system, we'll have to treat them in the ER at state expense."

"We also want to help small businesses provide healthcare for their employees," she adds. "How do we have healthcare for everyone? How do we make it affordable? How do we ensure quality care? These are the issues we have to address."

Gregoire has also been a player in national Democratic Party politics. She was one of the early endorsers of presumed Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, and recently appeared at a joint fundraising event with Michelle Obama in Seattle on July 17. "I first met Senator Obama during the Maria Cantwell campaign in 2006," she says. I've talked with him every couple of months by phone. I really got to know him much better that way. We've had some delightful communications, mainly about policy issues, healthcare especially. He shares the same values we do in Washington."

She looks forward to an Obama administration. "I can only imagine what we can accomplish when he is elected President. You know, in the past four years all I've met with in DC has been barriers." Gregoire entered public service in 1977 as an assistant attorney general in the office of Republican State Attorney General Slade Gorton. She became Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology in 1988, and was elected State Attorney General in 1992. She was re-elected in 1996 and 2000, before running for Governor in 2004. Her most famous achievement as Attorney General is the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, which remains the largest civil settlement in U.S. history. Funds from the settlement continue to provide healthcare services and research in Washington State.

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