Who will succeed Gov. Gregoire?

Ready for a Brown-McKenna contest in 2012?
Ready for a Brown-McKenna contest in 2012?

It'ꀙs not too early to think about 2012 governor'ꀙs race. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has just been re-elected and the state is facing a fiscal meltdown. So you might think the 2012 gubernatorial election would be far from anyone'ꀙs mind. Well, think again. Two Democratic Party insiders — former party chair Paul Berendt and former legislator and gubernatorial chief of staff Denny Heck — tell me that the political grapevine is already abuzz with talk of who will run in 2012.

The Seattle Times and The Spokesman-Review have reported that Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, is interested in the job. She'ꀙs never held statewide office and it'ꀙs been nearly three-quarters-of-a-century since Washington elected a Democratic governor from Eastern Washington. Nonetheless, Brown, an economist by training, is ambitious. The only thing that'ꀙs really held her back from seeking higher office is the fact she'ꀙs a single mom, but by 2012 her son will be out of the house.

Other Democratic names being bandied about include Congressman Jay Inslee, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, and State Rep. Ross Hunter of Medina.

Berendt and Heck say would-be candidates have started to make feeler calls to potential key supporters. If it seems a bit premature to be running for governor, Heck says it'ꀙs too 'ꀜmammoth an undertaking'ꀝ to not be thinking about it four years out. Of course, this Democratic parlor game presumes that Gregoire won'ꀙt seek a third term. Current conventional wisdom suggests that'ꀙs a safe presumption.

On the Republican side, the conventional wisdom is Attorney General Rob McKenna will be the leading candidate. McKenna is starting his second term as AG. He'ꀙs been keeping his proverbial powder dry as he holds the office that most often leads to governor. In fact, people like to joke that AG stands for Aspiring Governor. It'ꀙs the office Gregoire held before being elevated to chief executive.

The wild card on the Republican side is whether Dino Rossi would return for his third attempt at governor. It seems unlikely at this point. Rossi was pretty clear when he conceded to Gregoire back in November that he was going back into the business world.


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