OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Monday she will not seek re-election, saying it is time to step aside after two terms in office and decades in public service.
“Now it’s time for me to go on and do something else,” the Democrat said during a news conference surrounded by family.
Gregoire said she intends to focus her final 18 months on the economy, and she gave her cabinet energy drinks Monday morning as a symbol that there’s still lots of work left to be done.
“The worst thing that I can think of for the state of Washington is for me to be preoccupied with a campaign right now,” Gregoire said. “I need to set my sights on the next 18 months and guarantee that we are out of this recession. I don’t want to be distracted from that.”
Gregoire said she has no plans after leaving office except to spend more time with her family. She said she will do everything she can to support the re-election of President Barack Obama, “but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for a job.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee has been positioning himself to potentially run in her place. He said Monday he appreciated Gregoire’s service during difficult economic times.
“Today is her day,” said Inslee, who has served more than a decade in Congress representing northern Seattle suburbs. “I will make my intentions on the governor’s race known shortly.”
Attorney General Rob McKenna announced last week that he will seek the Republican nomination.
Gregoire was first elected in 2004 after more than a decade as attorney general. She was re-elected in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote in a heated rematch with Republican Dino Rossi.
Gregoire’s last couple of years have been defined by her approach to dealing with the local impacts of the national recession. She spent much of this year guiding budget negotiations between both parties and chambers as lawmakers sought to fill a $5 billion budget shortfall.
The final budget relied heavily on cuts to education and included double-digit annual increases in tuition.