The political fallout from Boeing's bombshell

A first assessment: Susan Hutchison can make some hay, Mike McGinn is suddenly out of synch, and Gov. Gregoire might be needing a new job in 2013.
A first assessment: Susan Hutchison can make some hay, Mike McGinn is suddenly out of synch, and Gov. Gregoire might be needing a new job in 2013.

Gov. Gregoire just finished an artful press conference, disclaiming any responsibility for Boeing's decision to build a second 787 production line in North Charleston, S.C., noting again that Boeing had told her there was nothing the state could do about the decision. The governor then tried to shift the public's attention to working together to keep future 737s and tanker projects in the state. No recriminations, please.

That probably won't wash. Why should the governor follow Boeing's script, rather than use her strong union connections to push the aerospace workers to be more conciliatory? And if Gregoire was doing so as part of a deal with Boeing — cooperate on our 787 exit, where labor will be the fall guy, and we'll work with you on keeping the 737 — might that not prove a wee bit naive?

But Gregoire isn't running in this election. (I suspect she now knows she won't be running in 2012 either.) So how about the Seattle mayor's race and the King County executive race? Susan Hutchison was one of the first to try to exploit the issue, holding a press conference in front of KeyArena to stress how the local all-Democrats political order has lost the Sonics and now has also destroyed "the future of Aerospace in our state." She then took off the gloves, blaming unions and the broader Democratic regime in the state for the loss of Boeing:

Our current crop of politicians have destroyed the Washington State business climate. They bend to the will of special interests that discourage businesses both large and small and push jobs out of our communities. They have failed to respond to growing job losses by fixing the tax and regulatory climate and fixing our failed transportation grid. They have encouraged the outrageous overreaching of unions and have left us with a business climate that no longer allows businesses to survive or thrive.

King County is the economic engine of this region and the engine has broken down.

The organizations responsible for pushing the aerospace industry and the thousands of jobs dependent upon it out of our State are the very same bankrolling Dow Constantine'ꀙs campaign.

Saying that Dow Constantine "lost Boeing" may be quite a reach, and Constantine quickly retorted that he is "the only candidate supported by both the business community and workers," and so therefore "in the best position to create common ground and set the foundation for job growth and future prosperity." He then shifted focus to the new economy (clean energy, biotech, software), making him seem more forward-looking. But Hutchison is probably smart, if a little desperate, in tapping economic uncertainties and calling for a return to business-driven agendas and roll-backs of union perks. (Smart, that is, if running anywhere than King County. Indeed, the Hutchison broadside sounds to me more like the first salvo of a statewide race.)

The more likely impact of the Boeing decision for local politics will be on the Seattle mayor's race. Mike McGinn's Sierra Club agenda is not going to seem like just the right medicine for an ailing local economy, suddenly desperate to hold onto jobs. Likewise, Joe Mallahan's big-business experience (as a T-Mobile executive) ought to be more of a political advantage, along with his "get-real" stance on issues such as the Viaduct. To be sure, a lot of voters have already mailed in their ballots. But those still sitting on fences are likely to turn into sober pragmatists in these post-Boeing days.


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