Four years ago, we endorsed Dino Rossi for governor. This year, we are endorsing his then-and-now opponent, Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Both are excellent candidates. Gregoire has demonstrated her ability as governor, and Rossi is a very plausible alternative.
We liked Rossi in 2004 (and still do) for several reasons. One was the fact that he would have been the state’s first Republican governor in the 20 years since John Spellman left the office.
There is real value in shifting party control of a state’s administration from time to time. State agencies develop cultures that, over time, can settle into complacency, stagnation and unexamined assumptions about how to spend public money. These tendencies can perpetuate themselves without occasional shake-ups. The election of a Republican governor would have shook state government up royally.
We also like Rossi’s temperament and judgment. For example, he was a sharp-eyed fiscal hawk when he served as the state Senate’s chief budget writer – but did his best to spare essential human services in the face of a massive deficit in 2003.
There’s a reason Rossi was able to fight Gregoire to a statistical tie in 2004 – one ultimately decided by an infinitesimal and fiercely disputed 133 votes.
Yet we’re endorsing Gregoire this time around. Although we’ve had disagreements with her, we’ve been impressed by her overall performance as governor. Some examples:
• Gregoire “gets” early childhood education. She has worked to turn the state into a leader in this field.
• She’s been a champion of higher education. In Pierce County, for instance, she secured funding to expand both the campus and the enrollment of the University of Washington Tacoma.
• She’s been a steadfast advocate of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in the face of opposition within her own party.
• Similarly, she bucked Democratic lawmakers to win approval of a constitutional “rainy day” fund.
• She’s been a forceful saleswoman abroad for Washington exports.
• She has led efforts to protect the environment, reduce greenhouse gases and clean up Puget Sound. Urban Waters, a major environmental research center, is being established on the Foss Waterway in large measure because of her advocacy.
• She solves problems. In 2006, for example, she negotiated a medical liability reform deal between doctors and plaintiff’s attorneys – who had been at each others’ throats for years over the issue.
So despite Rossi’s appeal, we think Gregoire has earned a second term. Regardless of who wins, we hope the margin of victory will be a bit bigger than it was in 2004.