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Eye On Olympia

Lisa Brown: An early contender for the 2012 governor’s race?

From my weekly column:

OLYMPIA _ The last person to make the jump from Eastern Washington to the governor’s mansion was a Democrat who, in tough times, argued for public spending to help stabilize the economy.

That was Clarence Martin, seven decades ago. But Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown may be hoping that history repeats itself.

Brown, a Democrat from Spokane, recently told the Seattle Times that although she hadn’t made a decision yet, she’s considering running for governor in 2012.

A spokesman for Brown subsequently said she wouldn’t elaborate on the comment. And Gov. Chris Gregoire, just starting her second term, has given no public indication of her plans.

If Brown does run, though, it wouldn’t be a big surprise. She’s been in the statehouse for more than 16 years, rising from local activist to become the Senate’s chief budget writer and Majority Leader.

Eastern Washington candidates have to work harder to win over Puget Sound voters, certainly. But fellow Democrat Peter Goldmark in November proved it’s not impossible. Goldmark blended his rancher roots with an alliance of Puget Sound environmentalists and political donors to oust Republican Doug Sutherland as the state’s commissioner of public lands.

Brown’s also built some Puget Sound credibility, particularly on high-profile things like transportation.

“Now I can debate the merits of viaduct proposals, 520 alignments, Sound Transit and RTID merits and demerits from a West Seattle, Belltown or Bellevue perspective,” she said in a recent post on her Senate blog.

“She’s smart, she has academic credentials, political experience – and she’s a woman,” said Sen. Bob McCaslin, ticking off Brown’s strengths in Washington’s political climate. Among Democrats, he said, “she’s got as good a chance as anyone.”

Brown would be a strong candidate and formidable fundraiser, said state GOP chairman and former Senate colleague Luke Esser. But he said he thinks Brown is too liberal to win.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to name me one major issue where she’s right of center by even one degree,” said Esser. While her record plays well in Brown’s central Spokane legislative district, he said, “I’m not sure it plays very well statewide.”

Stay tuned.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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