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Gregoire gets Harvard fellowship

OLYMPIA — Former Gov. Chris Gregoire will be going to Harvard University in a program designed to inspire undergraduates to seek jobs in government and public service.

Gregoire will be one of six resident fellows at the John F. Kennedy School of Government for the fall semester. As part of that program, she will interact with students, developing and leading weekly study groups.

The fellows come from a range of government, political, campaign, media and business backgrounds. Gregoire served two terms as Washington governor, three terms as its attorney general and was also director of the Department of Ecology.

Sunday Spin: Gregoire v Rossi 2 lives on in the courts

OLYMPIA – The 2008 governor’s race probably slipped from most voters’ minds long ago.

The winner, Democrat Christine Gregoire, retired from office in 2012 and the loser, Dino Rossi, seems headed for the status of elder statesman in the Republican Party.

It was their second contest, something of a grudge match, and like most sequels, Gregoire-Rossi 2 lacked much of the excitement and drama of the original in 2004.

But the race has tremendous staying power in the state court system. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Gregoire not ruling out a federal post

Gregoire's last press conference, an impromptu one, as she stopped at one of the Capitol press houses to say goodbye to reporters.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire pointedly refused to rule out the job of U.S. Interior Secretary, or any other spot in the Obama Administration, as she prepared to turn over the keys to the governor's office to Jay Inslee this morning.

She said she's been too focused on a deal struck with the federal government over continuing cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to entertain thoughts about her next job. When asked if she'd be interested in taking over at Interior for Ken Salazar, who announced he's retiring, she replied:

"When you're called to serve, you respond to the call," she said, but wouldn't sSkay if she'd been asked to consider that or any other post. "I'll wait. I'll see… I've had offers heare and around the country."

Her immediate plans? Skiiing in Idaho with college friends who have an annual trip she's had to skip for the last eight years, because it always comes when the Legislature is in session.

She turns over the keys to the office to Inslee at noon. Her flight to Boise leaves at 2:20 p.m.

Gregoire to Lege: Don’t rest on your laurels

AP Photo

Editor's note: For those who found today's Live Blog of the Governor's state-of-the-state address a bit unorthodox or disjointed, here's the more standard approach to reporting the speech, which will appear in Wednesday's print edition of The Spokesman-Review:

OLYMPIA — In her last speech to a Legislature with which she sometimes fought, Gov. Chris Gregoire said they accomplished much over the last eight years, but still have much left to do.

Don’t rest on your laurels, she said on her last full day in office, give the state better schools and roads. And, in a message that may have little traction with her replacement or the Republican-dominated coalition that runs the Senate, she suggested they may have to raise taxes to get the important things done.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog: 

WA Lege Day 2: Gregoire’s final speech

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire gives her final state of the state address this morning to a joint session of Congress in what might be regarded as "speech week."

There were speeches yesterday for the opening day of the Legislative session, and there will be an inaugural address tomorrow after Jay Inslee is sworn in as the new governor.

Today's speech will have all the usually trappings of a state-of-the-state, with a ceremonial entrance of senators into the House chamber and dignitaries in the gallery.

Later today, the House Government Accountability and Operations Committee gets an update on liquor privatization and, as Dr. Phil would say "how's that working for you?"

Gregoire official portrait unveiled

OLYMPIA — The walls of the lobby of the governor's office are decorated with portraits the former occupants of that position. So with Chris Gregoire about to assume the title of "former Gov." her portrait was unveiled Friday afternoon in the Capitol.

Seattle artist Michele Rushworth, who also did Gary Locke's portrati produced the 44-inch by 30-inch oil on canvas portrait, andput the Temple of Justice in the background to remind folks that Gregoire was attorney general before she was governor.

Gregoire is the 22nd governor, and there's not room for 22 portraits on the walls of the main lobby. So what happens to the overflow? Turns out that the portraits are moved to make room for the most recent ex-governor, and everyone else moves clockwise around the room and down the hall. Except for the first territorial governor and the first state governor, who stay in their places of honor.

Honor is a relative thing, as anyone who has ever been in the lobby when grade school class tours come through and listen to youngsters talk about the funny looking folks with their strange clothes hanging on the wall. 

Gregoire budget: Combination of cuts and taxes

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed two “lame-duck” budgets Tuesday for her successor and the next Legislature to consider next year. One cuts programs to stay within the revenue the state expects to collect; the other adds some programs it may need to improve public schools, and would need some extra tax revenue.

She called the former “simply unacceptable” because it cuts money for public schools, colleges, local governments and social programs.

The latter, she said, was a “balanced solution” that accounts for savings the state has made through consolidations and better management practices, and again cancels raises for public school teachers that were approved by voters in 2000 but rarely funded since. But that budget spends more . . .

Flags to half-staff for Connecticut victims

OLYMPIA — As state leaders weigh in with shock, sadness and support for the families of the Connecticut shooting victims, Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered state flags lowered to half-staff through Tuesday.

Gregoire called the shootings in Newtown, Conn., "incomprehensible" adding "all Washingtonians stand with me in expressing our profound sorrow and grief."

Governor-elect Jay Inslee called it "an incredibly dark day for our nation" and a day of mourning. "But in the days to come I will be listening to all in our community with ideas for how we can prevent such violence."

Spokane Mayor David Condon described the community as "heartbroken" but said the city and school district have a commitment to student safety. "The City of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools work closely together in many ways to help ensure that our kids are safe at school and within our community."

Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, the Senate Democratic leader, called it a "horrendous, senseless shooting" but the kind of violent action that is becoming too frequent. "I believe we are long overdue to have the politically difficult discussion of how we prevent them."

Gregoire: Moving ahead on marijuana

OLYMPIA – Washington will be “following the will of the voters and moving ahead” with setting up ways that adults can legally obtain marijuana for recreational use, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday after meeting with federal law enforcement officials.

 

To read the rest of this post, go inside the blog.

 

Gregoire looking for guidance from feds on pot

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire will meet with Deputy Attorney General James Cole to discuss the state's recent passage of a measure to legalize and tax the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis said that the governor would be meeting with Cole Tuesday morning before other meetings she was already scheduled to have in Washington, D.C.

Initiative 502 passed with 55 percent of the vote last week. The measure decriminalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana beginning Dec. 6, but the state has a year to come up with rules governing the growing, processing and labeling of pot before sales to adults over 21 can begin. Colorado also passed a measure legalizing the drug.

Curtis said Gregoire wanted to meet with federal officials because "we want direction from them."

Gov. ‘Alice’ offers treats

Gov.Chris Gregoire as Alice, and husband Mike greet trick or treater Jack Kesler, age 2 1/2 at the Governor's Mansion.

OLYMPIA — One thing Gov. Chris Gregoire is likely to miss when she leaves office at the end of this year is Halloween trick or treat at the Governor's Mansion.

This year, Gregoire dressed up as Alice of Wonderland fame, husband Mike was the White Rabbit and various staff were characters from Lewis Carroll's books like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee or the Queen of Hearts.

Kids in Olympia might miss it too. She gives out the big, full-sized candy bars.

Wonderland at Gov mansion? 1 day only

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire and her husband Mike have picked out their costumes to greet trick-or-treaters next week.

The governor will be appearing as Alice, of Wonderland fame. Mike Gregoire will be dressed as the White Rabbit.

During Gregoire's tenure, the mansion has been open to trick-or-treaters for a couple hours on Halloween, with the first couple basing costumes on everything from Sesame Street to the Addams Family. This year, they'll be answering the door from 6 to 8 p.m.

Gregoire to successor: You’ll need a tax increase

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire served warning today to her two would-be successors that the budget plans they push on the campaign trail won't work, and they'll need to find some sort of new revenue — usually translated as a tax increase — to balance the budget and meet the demand for better public schools.

At a press conference to announce a new federal waiver that will help the state save money by developing a new program for residents eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, Gregoire said she was looking at a revenue increase for the 2013-15 budget she will propose next month.

Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat, and Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, both have said they will not raise taxes if they are elected. Gregoire essentially dismissed that talk as standard campaign rhetoric.

"I'm not running for office," she said. They're candidates and "I'm a realist."

"I'm telling both candidates I don't know how you can meet your obligations for McLeary without new revenue," she said, referring to a state Supreme Court ruling that says the state needs to spend more to meet its constitutional requirements to fund basic education.

Inslee has said he can avoid a tax increase, in part, by finding savings in the state budget through the use of better management, known as "Lean" management. But Gregoire has already institute Lean management, and attended a conference earlier this week to discuss the progress made so far. It won't provide enough savings to free up the $1.1 billion needed to meet the needed improvements to public schools in 2013-15, she said, adding that she still supports Inslee, even though she disagrees with him on this.

McKenna is also wrong when he says he can find the money for better schools by capping the growth of other state programs, she said. Many programs aren't scheduled to grow as much as his proposed cap, and when costs go up in some programs, driven by a growing number of children in schools, families on social services or felons in prisons, the state doesn't have the flexibility not to pay.

"When your case load goes up, you have to match it," she said.

Both candidates have mentioned closing tax loopholes — credits or exemptions offered to certain businesses or industries to stimulate the economy and increase jobs. Gregoire said she said the same thing in 2004, when she was a first-time candidate for governor. But each exemption has a constituency that lobbied the Legislature to approve it, and will fight to keep it.

"You better be ready with a two-thirds vote" in both houses, which is what is currently required for removing any exemptions, she said. 

Gregoire does  have her budget staff reviewing ways to increase state revenues to include in the 2013-15 budget that she will propose later this year. "I have to, as part of my budget, put forth a solution."

They're looking for something that has the capacity to grow, would be considered fair, and survive a vote of the public, she said.

"I don't know what that is," she said. "Nothing is off the table."

Gregoire video appears on anti Ref 74 blog

 

The National Organization for Marriage, which is opposing the ballot measure which would let Washington recognize same-sex marriage, posted a video on its blog that suggests President Obama was hiding his support for such unions for several months.

It's a clip of Gov. Chris Gregoire telling a group that when Obama visited Washington state in February right after she'd signed the bill that's behind Referendum 74, the president whispered in her ear to thank her for that and said "history will be on our side."

Note the use of the first person plural.

It wasn't until May that Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, saying up until then only that his position was "evolving." Gregoire's remarks suggest the evolution was complete months before, NOM contends, wondering if other politicians also were receiving "secret support" from the president to change marriage laws.

So where does this video come from?

Read the rest of this item inside the blog.

Gregoire extends fire emergency

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire is extending the fire emergency for all counties east of the Cascade Crest, which means the Washington National Guard will continue to help fighting wildfires and the burn ban stays in effect until at least next Monday at midnight.

Gregoire announced the extension while touring the town of Liberty and visiting with evacuees from fires in Kittitas County. The First Creek Fire was burning about four miles outside of town.

The burn ban means no outdoor burning in those East Side counties. That includes camp fires, bonfires, residential trash or brush cleanup fires, as well as no fireworks of any kind.

Gas stoves are permitted, as are charcoal grills at homes provided the stoves or barbecues are set up on nonflammabe surfaces and kept at least five feet away from flammable materials like dried vegetation.

Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said with no rain in sight, the state is "in for a long haul."

Fire emergency declared

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire is activating some National Guard units to help fight fires in Eastern Washington in what she labeled “one of the worst fire situations I can recall” during her tenure.

The activation order is part of an emergency proclamation Gregoire signed Thursday. It calls for air support from the Guard to help fight fires;, directs state agencies to do “everything reasonably possible” to help cities, towns and counties respond to fires and recover from them; and calls on the state Emergency Operations Center to coordinate all efforts.

As of late Thursday, fires were threatening more than 500 homes and prompted numerous evacuations, Gregoire said in the emergency proclamation, and resources throughout the state are limited because of firefighting efforts throughout the region.

  

McMorris Rodgers: ‘I voted to save Medicaid’ with block grants

 

In defending her budget votes to a group of activists this week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Gov. Chris Gregoire and legislators are in a better position to know what’s best for Medicaid, the program that provides medical care for low-income residents.

"I voted to save these programs," McMorris Rodgers said of her vote for a House GOP budget plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

But the budget plan she supported makes a significant change to Medicaid that Gregoire strenuously opposes. It would turn the federal share of that program into a "block grant", a lump sum payment.

"I remain strongly opposed to any congressional effort to impose Medicaid as a block grant program in Washington," Gregoire wrote in a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal. . .

Governor to come east

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire will make a two-day swing through Central and Eastern Washington this week, with visits scheduled to highlight irrigation projects, flood damage victims and wine research.

Gregoire is scheduled to stop in Yakima Thursday morning to discuss an irrigation project on the Yakima River, and in Sunnyside to tour crop damage sustained by local farmers from recent storms. In the afternoon she has a tour of the Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser and a meeting with the Potato Commission in Richland.

Friday she'll attend a groundbreaking for a pump station near Benton City, visit the Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser and stop at another groundbreaking ceremony for a new shipping warehouse, in Burbank.

Sunday Spin: Health care reform a key difference between WA and ID

OLYMPIA – In a world of e-mails and Twitter tweets, it’s usually nice to get a real letter. Except, maybe, if it’s a letter telling you to do something that you’ve already said you aren’t gonna do, or not do something you’ve said you will.
This is the case with the letter that U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and a cohort of other Republican senators and congresspersons, sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire, urging her and her 49 fellow governors to “join us in resisting a centralized government approach to health care reform.” . . .

To read the rest of this item, or to commen, go inside the blog.
  

Who had a better year?

The Spokesman-Review updated its searchable list of annual salaries for state employees last week, and as usual, the top salaries went to coaches for the major sports at the two biggest universities. And as usual, the state’s chief executive is pretty far down the list.

We always include the caveat that salaries for the athletics departments in those schools don’t come from taxpayers, but from other revenue. But the list always reminds us of a quote attributed to George Herman Ruth in 1930, when the Babe was asked to justify his salary being higher than President Hoover’s: "I had a better year than he did."

Ruth was hitting homers and the country was in a recession, so there was no arguing there.

It may be possible for Steve Sarkisian, Lorenzo Romar and Ken Bone to make that case in comparison to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who had to deal with a protracted budget fight in a recalcitrant Legislature. But WSU football coach Paul Wulff and UW football defensive coach Nick Holt? Don’t think so.

A link to the searchable list can be found here.

High court may be done with health care act, governor’s race is not

OLYMPIA – When a divided Supreme Court settled the question of whether federal health care reform is constitutional Thursday, it turned up the spotlight on the issue for Washington’s hotly contested governor’s race.
Now the question is, how long before that light dims?
Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, one of the original plaintiffs in the failed multi-state challenge, said he was surprised at the ruling but insisted he was relieved, not disappointed.
Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, Inslee’s likely Democratic opponent for governor this November, was happy: “I always believed this was constitutional. I had no qualms in voting for this bill.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who disagreed so strongly with McKenna’s decision to draw Washington into the court battle that she filed as a “friend of the court” on the other side, was both celebratory and caustic.
  

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Gregoire: A great day… but not for McKenna

Gov. Gregoire discusses health care ruling.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire "couldn't be more happy and relieved" by the Supreme Court's majority decision that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional.

The decision is good for state residents with pre-existing medical conditions, for young adults who remain on their parent's insurance until they reach 26 and for people who will eventually have coverage through an expansion of Medicaid.

"The real winners are the people of our state," she said.

She also had harsh words for Attorney General Rob McKenna, her wouldbe replacement, for joining the suit. He was wrong on his insistence that the court could overturn the individual mandate and keep other parts of the law that Washington needs, Gregoire said.

"He was dead wrong on that. You can't have your cake and it it too," she said.

Health care reform is sure to come up in McKenna's run against former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, she added.

"Inslee went back (to Congress) and fought for health care reform and the attorney general was just wrong." 

Gregoire: Perserverance paid off

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said she believed the Affordable Care Act would withstand the legal challenge but was "extremely pleased" the Supreme Court agreed with some of the points highlighted in a brief she and others in the state submitted in support of the law.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, it may be recalled, signed on on the other side of the argument, as one of the officials from 26 states challenging the law.

With the decision, the state will continue efforts to expand health care, Gregoire said.

To read the full press release, go inside the blog.

Wonder who makes what, working for the state? We can show you

To search the updated database of state employees' salaries, click here.

OLYMPIA – The best-paying state jobs in Washington are still in academia, with the very best in athletics.

The annual listing of salaries for all state employees shows once again that the biggest paychecks in 2011 went to staff at either the University of Washington or Washington State University, with the top five going to coaches of the two schools’ football and basketball teams.

Husky football coach Steve Sarkisian tops the list of state employees with an annual salary topping $2.5 million. He also saw the biggest increase from 2010, with an increase of $546,000.

University officials are always quick to point out, however, that salaries for coaches and the other athletic departments’ staffs don’t come out of state tax dollars. They are covered by a combination of ticket sales and broadcast revenues.

UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar is second, with a little more than $1.2 million. WSU basketball coach Ken Bone, former WSU football coach Paul Wulff and former UW assistant coach Nick Holt round out the top five before the first non-coach, WSU President Elson Floyd shows up on the list at $625,000.

The list represents all payments made to state employees. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here

Mike Gregoire undergoes cancer surgery

OLYMPIA — Mike Gregoire, husband of Washington's two term governor, is recovering from cancer surgery after colon cancer was discovered during a routine screening.

Gov. Gregoire said in a statement her husband, who is 66, is still in the hospital but is expected to make a full recovery.

Cancer was discovered during a colonoscopy and he was immediately scheduled for surgery, the governor said in her statement. "Prior to the screening, Mike showed no symptoms and was never in pain," she added.

The governor was diagnosed with breast cancer about eight years ago, also from routine screening, and made a full recovery.

State to “monitor” gas prices

OLYMPIA — If your motor is racing because Washington's gasoline prices are going up, while most of the rest of the country's prices are going down, here's something that may tach it  up further:

There is now a state agency in charge of monitoring and reporting on gasoline prices and supplies. Gov. Chris Gregoire assigned that task to the state Department of Commerce.

Among its new duties, Commerce will "closely monitor Washington state and West Coast supplies and prices." Spin Control will suggest it's first few reports:

"Hey, gas is getting damned expensive."

"Hey, it's even worse than last week."

"Geez, we can hardly afford to drive to work gas is so expensive. Can we have a raise?"

The department is also charged with "reporting any market concerns to the attorney general's office." That's an interesting idea, but it could get her in trouble with the Democratic Party. If Commerce tells the AG's office they think there's something fishy about gas prices, and the AG does something to the oil companies to make them lower the prices, Republican Rob McKenna might be elected governor for life in the November election.

Gregoire also sent letters to all the refineries in Washington, including to the boss of BP's Cherry Point refinery, which is reputed to be part of the reason prices are going up because a fire earlier this spring forced it to shut down. It's not what you'd call a "come to Jesus" letter demanding Cherry Point stop dinking around and open the gasoline spigots. It's more of a reasoned, "we're all in this together" sort of missive:

"I urge you to take all prudent measures to increase production and supplies sufficiently to reduce prices for our consumers," it says in part. The whole letter can be found here.

Gregoire pushes education funding to center of debate

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Jay Inslee talks charter schools to WEA
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Jay Inslee talks collective bargaining to WEA

 

Job creation may be the main talking point of the two main candidates for governor, but another topic is rivaling jobs as a top issue in the campaign.

That’s thanks in part to outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has loudly backed the creation of new taxes to support the state’s Constitutional requirement to provide quality basic education.

The state Supreme Court ruled early this year that the state hasn’t met its obligation to adequately fund education programs.

But both Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, and Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee — Gregoire’s pick to succeed her — disagree with her assertion that more taxes are necessary.

Gregoire spoke strongly last week to the Washington Education Association for the need for “new revenue” to raise an extra $1 billion in the next two-year budget. The teachers union held its annual convention at the Spokane Convention Center.

The next day, however, Inslee addressed the WEA convention and largely avoided the topic of how to address the the Supreme Court ruling.

In an interview before the speech, Inslee said he would focus efforts to improve education funding on improving the economy, which would increase tax revenue.

“The most fundamental thing we need to do is get people back to work in this state,” he said. “That’s the real driver of revenue creation in our state.”

Inslee said he also would find savings by instituting efficiency programs that have grown popular in corporate America as well as in some city’s like Spokane under former Mayor Mary Verner.

McKenna says growing the economy is important, but says Democratic administrations have allowed the percentage of the state budget devoted to education to shrink as other programs have grown. He said he would reverse that trend.

“Moving forward we have to focus on reform and on spending more of the state budget on education,” McKenna said in an interview last week. “That means we’re not going to spend as much on other parts of the budget – that we won’t allow other parts of the budget to grow as fast as they have been growing.”

Another legislator out: Pflug to take GMA Board slot

OLYMPIA — The number of vacant seats in the Legislature continues to grow, as Sen. Cheryl Pflug accepted a gubernatorial appointment Monday to the Growth Management Hearings Board.

Pflug, R-Maple Valley, represents the suburban King County 5th Legislative District, first elected to the House in 1998, then appointed to the Senate in 2004 when Dino Rossi resigned to run for governor. (Those with really long memories might recall that the 5th District used to be located in Spokane County prior to 1992.)

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced this afternoon she was appointing Pflug to a six-year term on the board, which settles disputes over planning and development issues in cities and counties around the state, and two representatives each from Eastern Washington, Central Puget Sound, and the rest of the state West of the Cascades.

Pflug filed for re-election last week, listing her party preference as "Independent GOP Party." She will have to withdraw from that race because she can't serve on the board and in the Legislature. That leaves the seat to a race between Democrat Mark Mullet and Republican Brad Toft.

It's also at least the third surprise departure from the Senate this month. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, announced May 3 that she was retiring and Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee and a key player in this year's budget negotiations, announced last Friday that he'd had enough, too.

Gregoire tells teachers that state must raise taxes

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Gregoire on the need to raise taxes

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire told the state’s largest teachers union that she will work to increase taxes to help the state meet its mandate to provide quality education.

“I am traveling the state to send the message to legislators and taxpayers that we must have a new source of revenue because we cannot have money in the good times and no money in the bad times,” Gregoire said. “We have to have money all the time to meet our obligation to ensure the education of our children.”

Gregoire spoke Thursday evening at Spokane Convention Center during the annual convention of the Washington Education Association. About 1,000 members are attending the weekend event.

The governor, who opted not to run for a third term, won’t be governor when the Legislature convenes in January to consider the next two-year budget cycle and if tax increases will be part of that budget. Even so, she said she will remain active on the issue of education funding.

“It is time for us to step up to the responsibility that we as citizens in the state have and that is a long-term sustainable revenue source,” she said.

Obama gay marriage support fuels state politicians

OLYMPIA — In a state that recently went through a legislative battle over same-sex marriage and faces a potential ballot fight over the issue, President Barack Obama's comments supporting gay marriage drew quick response.

He'll likely hear some of it in person Thursday, when he stops by for a pair of re-election campaign fundraisers.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who offered similar reasoning late last year for her switch in support of gay marriage, praised Obama for a "courageous and heartfelt act."

Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, an openly gay legislator and sponsor of the bill that could ultimately allow Washington state to recognize same-sex marriages, thanked Obama for "his courage in taking a strong position in support of equality for all Americans."

But the National Organization for Marriage, a national group helping to gather signatures to place Washington's same-sex marriage law on the ballot and calling for a boycott of Starbuck's for its support of the legislation, predicted Obama's comments would cost him re-election. Although Obama said he personallly supports gay marriage but believes states should decide the issue, "that is completely disingenuous," NOM President Brian Brown said.

In an interview with ABC, Obama said he had hoped that civil unions for same-sex couples would be enough, but that hasn't proved true. He also mentioned that his daughters have friends whose parents are same-sex couples and whom they wouldn't expect to be treated differently, and that helped prompt his change in thinking.

Within hours, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, as chairwoman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, sent out an e-mail to party supporters, asking them to sign an on-line petition to "stand with President Obama in support of marriage equality."

That closely parallels Gregoire's comments in December, when she called for the change in state law and said her opinion had also evolved from supporting civil unions to marriage for same-sex couples. At that time, she mentioned the her views had evolved from talking with her daughters, whose generation is much more accepting of same-sex unions, and that children who are being raised by two parents of the same sex deserve to have their families recognized the same way as their classmates in more traditional families.

Gregoire and Obama may have a chance to discuss the issue Thursday. The president will make a campaign stop in Seattle, with a fundraiser at the Paramont Theater in downtown; Gregoire will be there, her office said.

The comments could also cause a ripple into the governor's race, which could share the ballot with a referendum seeking to block the same-sex marriage law that is on the books but currently on  hold. The leading Democratic candidate, former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, has said  he supports the new law. The leading Republican candidate, Attorney General Rob McKenna, has said he supports civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples, adding his stance on the issue was essentially the same as Obama's. Until today, that description was accurate, but it is now obsolete.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are gathering signatures on Referendum 74, which would give voters the final say on whether the law takes effect. A representative of Preserve Marriage Washington, the main sponsor of the referendum, told the Associated Press Wednesday they had about 70,000 of the more than 120,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the November ballot.