Local Democrats applaud Gregoire; GOP ready for a change

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

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Gov. Chris Gregoire’s announcement Monday that she would not seek a third term as governor drew generally positive comments from local Democrats about her contributions to the state.

“She’s a committed public servant,” said state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver. “I’m especially appreciative of her work on education. She’s emphasized the importance of early learning in the lives of children, and also emphasized the important connection between our economic progress and our ability to educate people.”

Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, was less effusive in his praise.

“Her first term, she was a rock star,” Moeller said. “It was fun to work with her because she worked the wings of the chamber like an old pro. She was out pulling legislators off the floor to get her legislation passed. Her second term, there were more mixed results. It seems like she developed legislation in a vacuum, without discussing it with legislators.”

Moeller said he opposed Gregoire’s proposal to tax users of the state ferry system through a special taxing district, a proposal that the Legislature ultimately rejected. And he said he thought the compromise the governor brokered over workers’ compensation reform this year was misguided.

“She wasn’t necessarily well-served on workers’ comp. It is incredibly complex. It was a 100-year-old program with many moving parts,” he said.

Former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who campaigned hard for Gregoire in her second run for governor, said the governor “was very supportive of America’s Vancouver and she did a lot for this community. “

“She was governor during the best of times and now she’s having to govern during the worst of times,” Pollard said. “In spite of the difficulty, she’s steering a pretty good course. It’s really tough on her. I’m sure it weighs on her. You can’t make anybody happy during this period.”

He added, “She has left her mark on this state and I think she’ll be remembered as one of our best governors.”

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart said he appreciates the fact that Gregoire has made frequent trips to Southwest Washington and has been responsive to county concerns about issues including public health funding and the Columbia River Crossing.

“She has been very engaged,” he said. “It goes a long way.”

Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, was appointed to the Legislature in April and said she hasn’t had a chance to get to know the governor well. But as a lobbyist for Kitsap and Clark counties, she said, she found the governor “always had a staff that has been willing to listen to county issues.”

In a poll of local legislators following last week’s announcement by Attorney General Rob McKenna that he would seek the governor’s seat in 2012, Republican lawmakers said they look forward to a change in leadership.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said he is not happy with the direction the state has taken under Gregoire.

“I’ve seen what’s happened with the current administration and I think we need change in this state,” Orcutt said. McKenna’s experience and intelligence make him well-suited to move the state economy forward, he said.

Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said she thinks McKenna would shrink the divide between Republicans and Democrats, making fewer partisan decisions.

“One-party control has failed this state,” Rivers said, “and we saw it in this last budget go-round.”

Dwight Pelz, chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party, issued a statement thanking Gregoire for her service during “one of the most difficult economic times in our history” and promised a fight next year.

“We look forward to the upcoming governor’s race, and will continue to take on Rob McKenna’s record of failing to stand up for consumers and Washington’s middle class,” he said.

Columbian-Murrow News Service intern Justin Runquist in Olympia contributed to this story.