Gregoire Discounts Recount Backlash
No governor came into office in 2004 with as much fanfare and controversy as Washington's Christine Gregoire (D).
Gregoire's race against Republican Dino Rossi was not decided formally until eight weeks after Election Day, following convoluted machine and hand recounts that saw Gregoire and Rossi swap the lead repeatedly.
Polls conducted in the immediate aftermath of the recounts showed that Washington voters believed Rossi was the rightful governor, but by then Gregoire had been sworn in. Republicans have since maintained that the damage to Democrats from the recount process was so searing that it will give GOP candidates a boost in 2006 -- especially former Safeco insurance company executive Mike McGavick (R), who is challenging Sen. Maria Cantwell (D).
During a half-hour interview in a suite at Washington's J.W. Marriott (where chief executives from across the country are gathered for the National Governors Association winter meeting this week), Gregoire dismissed that line of reasoning as "spin."
The cumulative effect of the recounts and legal machinations, according to Gregoire, was that voters adopted a "pox on both your houses" mentality toward the political parties. She said that as she moves around the state nowadays people rarely mention the recount to her.
Her narrow victory in 2004 made her more willing to take risks in her political career, Gregoire said. "For as long as I am here, I am going to do everything I can to move the state forward."
During the current legislative session, Gregoire has cast herself as a the mediator between legislative Democrats and Republicans on tranportation and water issues as well as medical malpractice reform. "I am working well with Democrats and Republicans alike," she said.
As for the possibility of a 2008 rematch against Rossi, Gregoire sounded a confident note. She argued that the race would not be a replay of the 2004 contes.; "Rossi's main campaign theme was that I represented the insider, status quo," she said. "I am anything but that."
Polling would seem to indicate that Gregoire would enter a rematch against Rossi as an underdog, however. A survey conducted by the GOP polling firm Strategic Vision in mid-December showed Rossi with a 55 percent to 35 percent lead over Gregoire. Just 38 percent approved of the job Gregoire was doing as governor compared to 54 percent who disapproved. Other polls have shown Gregoire with a roughly one-to-one favorable/unfavorable score.
J. Vander Stoep, a consultant for Rossi, said the poll numbers reflect a widespread "perception that she is holding an office that she did not win fairly."
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