Seattle Mayor Norm Rice got the question from reporters on both sides of the mountains Wednesday when he kicked off his gubernatorial campaign in Spokane.
Why should voters in Eastern Washington care about a West Side politician?
Each time, he leaned into it like a hitter getting the chest-high fastball he expected from a pitcher. Because there’s only one Washington, the Democratic candidate said.
“I do not want to be the governor of one town, one region or one side of the mountain,” said Rice, 52. “The problems that we’re facing are similar.”
His experience in dealing with urban renewal and forming partnerships between government and business would help Spokane or Colville, he said. Experience recruiting business to Seattle would help expanding jobs to the rest of the state.
The two-term mayor and former city councilman talked generally about forming partnerships and working as a broker who brings people together to solve the state’s problems. But as with most candidates starting a campaign, he asked for time to work out specifics of some of the state’s knottier problems.
On welfare reform, Rice said he could support reasonable time limits for the benefits. But only if the state has a program to help welfare recipients with child care, job training and medical coverage for children, he said.
Taxes aren’t likely to be raised under his administration or anyone else’s, he said, acknowledging that a voter-passed law makes that a political fact of life.
Any decision on cuts would have to meet his standards of fairness for all sectors.
“I won’t get into the debate at this time about ‘will you raise or lower taxes,”’ he said.
On the balancing of environmental protection and property development, Rice would like to streamline regulations faced by business wishing to come to Washington or planning to expand. But he does not favor laws that require the state to compensate property owners if a law or regulation restricts the use of their land.
“I don’t think there are many win-win (situations) any more on the environment,” he said. “I want to bring back civility to the discourse.”
Rice, who went from Spokane to the Tri-Cities to Seattle announcing his candidacy Wednesday, becomes the third King County elected official, and fourth Democrat, to enter the race.
But some local Democrats say he may be more familiar to local activists than King County Executive Gary Locke, state Sen. Nita Rinehart of Seattle or former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee of Bainbridge Island.
Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty and former Mayor Sheri Barnard are political allies.
Those connections, plus his trips to Spokane to discuss urban renewal, could be an asset in a crowded primary.
“We’ve seen a lot more of Norm than of any of the others,” said David Fredericks of North Spokane.