Monday, October 20, 2008

More Newspapers Endorse Gregoire

According to Brad Shannon at the Olympian, the Seattle Times' decision to, once again, endorse Dino Rossi for Governor "is bucking a trend... Other significant papers that went with Rossi in 2004 have switched, backing Gregoire this time around. These include The News Tribune in Tacoma, the Columbian in Vancouver, and the Spokesman-Review in Spokane — all battlegrounds where Rossi had an edge last time but which are trending more favorably for Gregoire way this time, based on Aug. 19 primary results."

The Bellingham Herald wrote,

"Our decision to back Gregoire a second time is simple. She has done a good job leading our state the last four years. We can find no reason to 'fire' her and 'hire' Rossi instead...

Officials estimate the state could face a $3.2 billion budget deficit between 2009 and 2011, the state's next two-year budget cycle. While Rossi and his supporters have made a lot of political hay about that, we don't see how Gregoire can be blamed.

The state's deficit is a direct result of a slowing economy. It would have happened no matter who was governor...

Rossi lacked specifics when talking about how he would tackle the future budget deficit. He promised that as governor, he would 'open up the lid on the agencies' and be able to look inside and find cost savings. But despite repeated questions, Rossi could give no examples of what programs or agencies he would cut in order to balance the budget. We were surprised.

Not only is Rossi familiar with the state's budget from having written the state Senate version in 2003, but he has been running for governor basically full-time since 2004. After he lost that year's close election, it was obvious that he was planning on challenging Gregoire again this year. In all that time you would think he would have thought of some obvious proposals for state programs that could and should be trimmed.

Gregoire, meanwhile, is right in the middle of her goal of revamping the state government and finding new ways to do things..."

Explaining their decision to support Gregoire this year, after supporting Rossi four years ago, the Spokesman-Review wrote,

"[Gregoire] is a brainy, hands-on governor whose qualities are needed to deal with problems, both foreseen and unforeseeable, that confront any state...

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."

The Skagit Valley Herald wrote,

"Dino Rossi and the state Republican Party have spent the past four years lamenting that he wasn’t elected governor in 2004, and they are planning to change that this year. Rossi has spent much of that time campaigning, directly or indirectly, while Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire ran the state.

If Rossi had spent more of that time actually preparing to be governor instead of wishing to be governor, he might be a more viable challenger. As it is, he’s the same guy with the same message four years later, and that’s not nearly recommendation enough to unseat Gregoire...

Rossi is an energetic campaigner with legislative leadership experience in the budget process. But his solutions for state government’s challenges, or perceived challenges, are long on hyperbole and short on detail. And his plan for the budget — redirecting money from the general fund to help pay for roads — is, in the absence of detail, borderline alarming...

Gregoire has never acted like a governor who just barely won. Agree or disagree with her positions, she has shown consistent leadership and initiative... We think Gregoire has the experience and determination to steer the best course through the next four years."

The Everett Herald, another newspaper that switched from Rossi to Gregoire, wrote,

"Four years ago, when they were vying for an open seat, we endorsed Rossi because of his impressive mediation work balancing the budget in 2003 as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. This time, we have a candidate with a track record in the governor's office, and we think it's a strong one. While we still believe Rossi has much to offer, we endorse Gregoire for re-election...

Gregoire has proven to be a strong leader who's not afraid to take on entrenched interests when necessary, and she'll need to keep doing so in what will be a challenging second term. We think she's up to the task."

Finally, the Kitsap Sun wrote,

"Gov. Chris Gregoire has skillfully balanced economic and environmental needs during the past four years, and has responded effectively to the state's ongoing budget challenges.

Because of her impressive and consistently productive leadership, our editorial board is recommending the re-election of Gregoire..."

Previously I argued there was no way the Seattle Times would endorse Gregoire because the publisher, Frank Blethen, "will be unable to overcome his bias in support of tax cuts for the rich when considering the Governor's race." Sure enough, all three newspapers owned by the Blethen family -- the Seattle Times, the Yakima Herald-Republic, and the Walla Walla Union Bulletin -- have all endorsed Rossi. Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly noted this trend when he commented "the Seattle Times will never forget the guv's backing of the inheritance tax..."

What was disconcerting, however, was that the main argument the Seattle Times used to recommend Rossi is because they want state employees to pay more for health care. I'm not making this up! According to the Seattle Times,

"When [Rossi] says he'll cut spending, you can believe him, because he has done it, and because he represents a constituency that wants it done.

Consider one example: the proportion of health insurance paid by the employee. In the private sector, the employee's share differs, but averages more than a third. At the state, the employee's share is 12 percent.

A few months ago, Gregoire agreed to keep it at 12 percent. She could try to take back this gift, but it would be difficult. For Rossi, it would not be so difficult. He would probably say that in the midst of an economic crisis, it was unfair to save an employee's benefit by raising taxes on other employees who don't have that benefit."

With the exception of the personal agenda belonging to the owner of the Seattle Times Company, there is a common thread to all these endorsements -- Gregoire is seen as effective and strong, while Rossi is seen as vague and evasive. On one hand, I can't think of any specific election that was won or lost based on a newspaper endorsement, on the other hand it is heartening that at least some observers can see Gregoire's substance amid all of Rossi's empty slogans. -- Dennis

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