Sunday, December 11, 2005

''Connelly Attempts To Say Something Nice About The Governor''

"Moderate Democratic governors in pro-Bush "red" states of the West currently enjoy sky-high popularity. Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana was touting his 68 percent job approval rating in a poll as he attended a football game with Gregoire in Cheney last month.

Gregoire gets a thumbs-up of only 44 percent in the latest SurveyUSA poll, up from past surveys but nothing to carry around and display.

Understandably, Washington's governor has a different message: It's not about me. In Cheney, she carried around another set of figures -- county-by-county totals by which voters rejected the gas tax rollback and sustained the state's ambitious transportation program.

"The defeat of Initiative 912 not only means an investment in infrastructure, but it will encourage legislators to take on tough issues. It frees them to continue to be bold," she said.

What can we look for in year two of Gregoire's government? Activism, on several fronts:

The heat on Seattle: Gregoire had what she calls "a very direct conversation" with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels about the Alaskan Way Viaduct the day before Thanksgiving.

Hizzoner was told that the city will have to come up with the additional money -- $1 billion-plus -- to build his cherished tunnel option, or the state will move in and replace the seismically challenge highway. No drop-dead date was set -- yet. "It's their decision to make," Gregoire said. "The state is ready to replace the viaduct. We are not prepared to wait."

The focus on Puget Sound: Gregoire will meet later this month with Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., to begin scoping out an ambitious strategy to restore Puget Sound. Its key ingredients -- federal money and state action. "For us to get federal dollars, we will have to get a credible plan: We have to explain why this is crucial for our state -- its fisheries, its tourism, its very quality of life," said Dicks, dean of our congressional delegation.

As models, Gregoire and Dicks look to the multistate effort to get pollutants out of Chesapeake Bay, and the Great Lakes cleanup that has involved the United States, Canada and eight states.

The heat on Victoria: A byproduct of the Puget Sound cleanup will be renewed pressure on British Columbia to force its capital city, Victoria, to stop dumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

"It's a great time for us to put that issue squarely on the table," Gregoire said. "Premier (Gordon) Campbell is trying to send a message on the environment for the 2010 Winter Olympics."

Gregoire is also going to be a political animal.

It's an American tradition that an incumbent governor is leader of his (or her) state party. But it has not been a tradition in Washington.

Gov.-elect Mike Lowry played no role as state Democrats picked a chairman after the 1992 election: The party suffered disastrous defeats in 1994. Gov. Gary Locke endorsed Mark Sidran for mayor of Seattle in 2001. The state Democrats backed and put muscle behind Greg Nickels.

State Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt announced Wednesday that he will retire next month.

"I would sure like to be engaged in selection of a successor," Gregoire said. She has also installed Ron Judd, once a highly successful head of the King County Labor Council, as external affairs officer for the governor.

To use a famous Bushism -- coined as self-description by the president -- Gov. Gregoire should not be "misunderestimated."-excerpted from Joel Connelly's P-I column. Thanks to Fired Up Washington for the tip. Say whatever you want about Joel Connelly, and I know you will, he does his homework and turns it in on time.

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