Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary Locke went looking for Spokane votes Friday among a new crowd, some of them Republicans, tempting them with familiar-sounding themes.
It was, Locke insisted later, the same speech he has given for months: calls for less partisanship, tax breaks for certain businesses, and a government bureaucracy that cuts waste to serve residents better.
“Government cannot be all things to all people,” he told a crowd of about 50 businessmen and women at The Crescent Court. “We need to focus on doing a few things well rather than a lot of mediocre things.”
The speech was nearly identical to one he gave an hour later in Riverfront Park to a crowd of Democratic partisans.
“We need to take good ideas, regardless of where they come from, and move forward,” he told both groups. To reform welfare, “we need to place people into jobs as quickly as possible.”
The contrast between the crowds - suits and ties in the Crescent Court, union jackets and jeans at the park - gave a hint of the way the Locke campaign is trying to expand support as he battles Republican Ellen Craswell. So did the tone of the speech.
After sliding down the giant Red Wagon, he stood on a makeshift platform with a squeaky microphone. He revved up supporters by asking if they would help him elect Democrats. The crowd of about 60 cheered and shouted yes.
In the Crescent Court, he was much more subdued as he tackled the question of whether he was a “tax and spend liberal,” as Republicans are charging.
In answer, he contrasted himself with outgoing Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry, who is criticizing him for proposing tax cuts.
In some respects, the downtown reception had much in common with Craswell’s appearance in Spokane earlier this week. The GOP candidate met with about 100 people, mostly business people, at the Spokane Club one morning. She too talked about lower taxes and smaller government.
She too fielded a question based on the negative public perception being fostered by the opposing party.
Craswell was asked how she planned to fight the perception that she’s “some kind of ayatollah charm school graduate.”
Simple, she replied. People who have worked with her for 16 years in the Legislature are campaigning for her and “are my greatest spokesmen for the fact that I’m not scary.”
Republicans among the Crescent Court crowd, who asked not to be named, were mixed Friday in their reaction to Locke. One businessman who worked for a losing GOP primary candidate said he was too moderate to vote for Craswell and would vote for Locke.
A woman who was active in a GOP primary campaign said she came because she was curious, but left without being convinced.
“He said to look at his record, and that’s what I’ll do,” she said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ‘TAXES’ The ad: “Taxes” a 30-second television ad sponsored by the state Republican Party. It accuses Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary Locke of planning to implement a state income tax. The background: The GOP spent $160,000 to run this ad statewide, and will be running more statewide spots later in the campaign. Opponent’s reaction: Locke’s campaign calls the ad an “outright lie.” Party response: While Locke isn’t pursuing an income tax now, it’s because voters don’t support it, not because he doesn’t. “It’s like, stop me before I tax again,” said GOP spokesman Todd Myers. Analysis: Since Locke has repeatedly stated the income tax is a dead issue and he will not support or pursue it if elected, the ad is flat-out wrong on this point. It also is misleading concerning the size of a tax increase Locke supported in 1992. The ad saddles Locke with “the largest tax increases in Washington’s history … $1.2 billion straight out of our pockets.” That figure includes fee and tuition increases, which are not tax increases. The general fund tax increase was $717 million.