OLYMPIA — Speculation that Gov. Chris Gregoire might be named to replace Solicitor General Elena Kagan raises the prospect of falling political dominoes in Washington state.
If the governor’s mansion was suddenly up for grabs this year, candidates could be jumping in or out of races for the U.S. Senate and House.
Seattle political consultant Christian Sinderman said that a Gregoire appointment would accelerate the timeline for anyone looking at the governor’s race in 2012.
“You can imagine all the people trying to seize the moment of a shortened election cycle and jumping in,” said Sinderman, who works for Democratic candidates.
President Barack Obama nominated Kagan for the Supreme Court on Monday. Almost immediately, there were whispers of Gregoire being on a short list of candidates. An official within the Obama administration confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that Gregoire was among those being considered to replace Kagan, assuming she is confirmed by the Senate. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations, and had no information on the size or scope of the list or when a decision would be made.
Gregoire spokesman Cory Curtis says no one from the White House has talked to Gregoire about the job, which is to essentially be the president’s lawyer before the Supreme Court.
“She hasn’t even been approached about it, or talked to about it, so there’s nothing for her to consider,” he said. “Right now, she’s doing her job serving the state, and is happy doing that.”
The potential for last-minute campaign chaos has some political observers saying they’d be surprised if a decision is made before the November elections, especially since a search for a replacement won’t even begin until after Kagan is confirmed, which might not happen until later this summer.
If Gregoire were to be appointed, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, also a Democrat, would become governor until a special election was held, though depending on the timing, he could also serve until the 2012 elections.
If Gregoire resigned before June 1, there would be a special election primary and general election. If she resigned between June 1 and Oct. 3, there would be a special winner-take-all election held in November, said Katie Blinn, assistant director of elections.
Democrats who have been mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates are U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane. On the Republican side, Attorney General Rob McKenna has long been considered a favorite to run for governor, as has former two-time gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, who is currently considering a run against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
In a scenario where Gregoire resigned Oct. 4 or later, Owen would be in charge until the 2012 elections, and an election to replace him as lieutenant governor would take place next year.