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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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April 7, 2008 4:17 PM

Gregoire skips the coffee klatch on way to announcing re-election

Posted by David Postman

I went to Auburn this morning hear Gov. Chris Gregoire kick off her re-election campaign. That’s her hometown. If you didn’t know that, you’d find out on the way into town: it’s proudly proclaimed on the city limit signs.

Her first stop was the Rainbow Cafe, where Gregoire’s mother worked when the governor-to-be was growing up as the only child of a single mom.

The Rainbow is made for these sorts of events. It’s on Main Street, which hasn’t been the main street for decades. The paint behind the neon sign is tired. The diner has been here for 75, 80 or more years, depending on which of the old-timers holding up an the diner counter you choose to believe. You know those guys - complaining about the coffee as they drink their sixth cup, proposing marriage to the waitress and telling Rainbow owner Mike Fawcett to get a real job. (He already has two. He's a Seattle fireman and owns the restaurant with his wife, Shelley.)

“This used to be the only place to come. On Friday nights you couldn’t get in the door,” said Hoppy, the 78-year-old at the counter who figured if that name was good enough to be embroidered on his Auburn Chevrolet windbreaker, it was good enough for The Seattle Times.

The Rainbow has such good diner-cred that a videographer for the Gregoire campaign patrolled through the morning regulars, getting close-ups of Hoppy and his pals Dick Kammeyel and Ken Bradford, the Fawcetts and their daughter, Morgyn, as well as of the milkshake machine and a plate full of hot bacon and eggs.

Kammeyel was there because he’s there every morning. He knew Gregoire’s mother when she cooked at the Rainbow and was excited to see the governor come in.

“You’ll see, she’ll not only recognize me she’ll give me a big, old hug,” he said.

Clearly, this was a perfect place for Gregoire to begin her second campaign for governor and steer away from what she thought she did wrong in 2004 that put her in a dead-heat with Republican Dino Rossi.

“I don't think in the end voters ever really got to know Chris Gregoire,” Gregoire said about herself after the record-close ’04 election.

“People want to know that they can have a governor who is good on policy and is competent. But they also want to know that they can have a governor that they can relate to. I’m a mom. I’m a spouse. I’m a breast-cancer survivor. I came from very humble beginnings. I’m the first in my family to have gone to college. And I’ll bet most people don’t know much of any of that today.”

In the Rainbow this morning, we all turned as the windows of the diner were suddenly filled by the huge, bio-diesel Gregoire for Governor bus lumbering down Main Street. But it didn’t stop out front. Gregoire didn’t get out and jog into the diner to shake hands and hug old-timers.

The bus pulled around back. Gregoire came in a back door into a room filled with her staffers, campaign supporters and reporters. There were no plans to make an appearance in the Rainbow proper.

That seemed like a lost opportunity. And not just a photo opportunity, either. Gregoire needed to make her kickoff about her, about her character and personality and family and sense of community. Those are all the things she said voters didn’t get from her last time.

Yes, she has to talk about her accomplishments as governor. Certainly, after four years that’s part of the campaign launch. But maybe day two, or the second half of her first speech. But in the back room of the cafe, and later at an Auburn business where the audience was heavily seeded with union members, Gregoire seemed almost uncomfortable talking about herself, and over eager to get into the hard shots at Rossi.

Here’s how she opened her speech - and her re-election - at Zones Inc.

“This is a very, very important election for us here in this state and across the nation. As we begin to think about our country, we’re at a real crossroads and we’ve got a real choice to make. The fact of the matter is, if you want a governor in this Washington who will be an echo chamber for the federal policies and the Bush administration in the other Washington, I am not your candidate.”

“I am not your candidate” doesn’t strike me as a great opener. She did mention that she was raised by a single mom and talked about sitting on a stool in the kitchen of the Rainbow and watching her mother work.

She said they faced hard times. But she didn’t describe what that meant. Did it mean she didn’t get new clothes for school when other kids did? Was the house heated? Did they put water in the soup and Hamburger Helper into the ground beef?

God knows I don’t want to start thinking like an editor. But I can imagine what one of them would say: Don’t just tell us you had hard times, describe what life was like. This isn't to be maudlin or overly-dramatic. But to flesh out a life that too few voters know.

My favorite part of the speech was where Gregoire said she went to college thinking she’d be a pharmacist because the local Auburn druggist - impressed by the young Christine O’Grady - had convinced her that even that lofty perch could be hers. And that was the path, she said, “until I met science.”

That sounds all so real.

Gregoire said she tells her daughters, “We don’t just live in any old state, we live in the great state of Washington.” That to me sounded more like a proposed state slogan rejected right before “Say WA” more than it does something you’d say to your kids. (Of course I may be jaded on this by having two boys who have been merciless about any attempt by me to tell them anything inspirational.)

Gregoire delivered the speech well. She appeared committed to her agenda, and the quickness with which she drew a target on Rossi showed she would have her dukes up for any Republican shots. She showed a mastery of issues.

She played on Barack Obama’s message of hope by saying that she was the optimistic candidate who could bring hope to Washington while Rossi was all about being negative. (Meanwhile, Rossi has played on Obama’s message of change, saying that he would represent a sea-change after six terms of Democratic governors.)

But as her kick-off tour continues and the campaign unfolds, I think Gregoire needs to look for more Rainbow Diners. And next time she should come in the front door and sit a spell.

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April 7, 2008 1:07 PM

On Ellen Craswell

Posted by David Postman

When I heard this morning that former Sen. Ellen Craswell had died I thought back to her 1996 campaign for governor. That’s how I came to know her. And I will always remember how at ease she was in discussing her Christian faith.

This is from a 1995 Seattle Times magazine story that introduced Craswell to many voters:

Although she'll talk about more than her Christian agenda - she has positions on property rights, welfare reform and government regulation that will appeal to a broad range of voters - she's also willing to confide that she's just sent a quickie "arrow prayer" heavenward, asking God to help her discuss her faith honestly, in a way that honors the Lord.

Everything in her life in one way or another is a reflection of God, she says. And He's a God who sweats the details.

When the circulation of her "Family In Touch" newsletter grew to the point that production deadlines were threatened, she prayed for a machine to fold the pamphlets. Not long afterward, a friend with a print shop donated just such a contraption, which Craswell took to be, literally, divine intervention.

"God provided a folding machine!"

The story was written by Mark Matassa. Craswell liked that story so much she had her staff copy it and hand it out at campaign events. She and Matassa formed an unlikely friendship over that story. After I let Mark know today that Craswell had died, he wrote about her at the blog he co-writes.

She was an old (75 when she died on Saturday), very conservative, very religious retired politician without much humor or even common cultural references. She didn't see movies or watch TV, and didn't read much of anything except the Bible. In her political career she wanted more religion in schools, softer laws against child abuse and, most famously, castration for sex offenders -- views that I, as a voter, probably wouldn't support. Yet I considered her an exceptionally warm person, a terrific journalistic subject and, finally, a sort of long-distance friend.

… Anyway, like a lot of people, as I got to know Ellen I was totally disarmed by her sincerity and her lack of pretension. I've known a lot of politicians and a lot of religious zealots and I have to say that, whatever one may think of her beliefs, she was the most honest of the lot. There wasn't an ounce of charlatan in her. She didn't even have the good sense -- or the trickster ability -- to soft-pedal her wackier ideas when a reporter was following her around with a notebook and tape recorder.

Read the whole thing here.

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April 7, 2008 8:02 AM

GOP says Gregoire uses state money to boost campaign

Posted by David Postman

The state Republican Party wants an investigation of Gov. Chris Gregoire for “repeatedly using public funds to campaign for reelection.” Party chairman Luke Esser filed a complaint Friday with the Public Disclosure Commission alleging:

Gov. Gregoire has spent over a hundred thousand taxpayer dollars on political polls, focus groups, campaign rallies and public relations contracts awarded to political donors, all of which are clearly campaign activities.

Gregoire officially kicks of her campaign later this morning. But she has been raising money for her re-election campaign since 2005, her first year in office.

The complaint cites three specifics:

  • A poll done for the Washington Learns Commission with wording “identical to the questions asked by nearly every political campaign survey.”
  • The governor’s six-city listening tour last year that included town hall meetings and focus groups with voters;
  • The governor’s hiring of a PR consultant for nearly $20,000 to examine the governor’s office communications strategy. The contract went to a donor and supporter of Gregoire’s.

Gregoire spokesman Aaron Toso called the charges “old news.”

Gov. Gregoire is interested in listening to the people of Washington state, it is unfortunate that Mr. Esser would rather have his governor ignoring citizens.

If you want to watch Gregoire's kickoff speech ,there will be a webcast here at 11:00.

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Recent entries

Apr 7, 08 - 04:17 PM
Gregoire skips the coffee klatch on way to announcing re-election

Apr 7, 08 - 01:07 PM
On Ellen Craswell

Apr 7, 08 - 08:02 AM
GOP says Gregoire uses state money to boost campaign

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