Round 2 of Rossi vs. Gregoire differs from Round 1 in a conspicuous way. This year, one candidate has a gubernatorial record to run on – and defend.
Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration has some shortcomings. It has spent more freely than it should, one reason being its failure to get a handle on overly generous health care benefits for state employees.
Also, her Department of Ecology has proved unable to resolve Spokane River cleanup issues after two years of earnest collaboration by stakeholders (including Inland Empire Paper Co., which is owned by Cowles Co., owner of The Spokesman-Review). We also think Gregoire’s climate-change initiatives are overly aggressive for a state that already has a carbon footprint that other states would envy.
But her rival, former state Sen. Dino Rossi has drawbacks, too, such as his irresponsible transportation funding plan that would pull hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state general fund at a time when the nationwide economic tailspin has aggravated the state’s projected $3.2 billion revenue shortfall.
Despite the aforementioned disappointments in Gregoire’s first term, her resume has a shinier side.
She is a brainy, hands-on governor whose qualities are needed to deal with problems, both foreseen and unforeseeable, that confront any state. She demonstrated those assets when she brought doctors, lawyers and insurers together to craft a compromise on tort-reform disagreements that were the subject of a multimillion-dollar ballot showdown only a year earlier.
As attorney general, she was a national leader in a bold lawsuit against tobacco companies. Because of her prominent role in that successful litigation, the state now can distribute $350 million in grants under Gregoire’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund.
While she’s not personally responsible for the state’s long-needed rainy day fund, as her ads imply, she did her share to make it happen.
Her Washington Learns initiative has focused resources and attention on early childhood education, which not only will produce a more educated work force, it will reduce the social costs associated with underachievement in the form of crime and social service delivery.
Like many statewide politicians, Gregoire pledged to govern on behalf of “one Washington.” Unlike so many predecessors, she has backed it up with action.
She has demonstrated an understanding that nurturing civic enterprises and government initiatives in Spokane and elsewhere in Eastern Washington contributes to state prosperity just as it does in the Puget Sound area. Spokane’s Fox Theater, the Intercollegiate School of Nursing, the North-South Corridor, an expanded medical school taking root this year in Spokane – all are beneficiaries of Gregoire’s one-Washington commitment.
Her appointment of Spokane attorney Debra Stephens to the state Supreme Court assured an Eastern Washington perspective there while adding a legal mind of the first order to the court, benefiting both this region and the state at large.
With Gregoire’s urging, Eastern Washington farmers will gain water storage capacity to neutralize the impacts of drought. Under her capital budget, Eastern Washington University has opened its first new academic building in 34 years.
Whether it is flooding in Western Washington, the paralyzing snowstorm that pounded Spokane last winter or the wildfire that swept through Spokane Valley neighborhoods this year, Gregoire has left the comfort of Olympia to meet face to face with local officials and citizens who feel tragedy’s impact.
Rossi’s campaign advertising faults Gregoire because she’s been in government for 39 years. We don’t understand why extended public service is a blemish as long as she’s performed honorably. In her nearly four decades, Gregoire has served ably more often than not, and if there’s ever been a hint of misconduct or scandal in all that time under the magnifying glass, we missed it.
In 2004, we weighed the two candidates and concluded that Rossi was the more promising answer. Having now seen Gregoire in action for four years, we think she has made a convincing case for re-election.