Pomp, circumstance and shadows at Gregoire inauguration
KING5.com Staff and Wire Reports
"I started to get nervous the fire alarm would get pulled," said Brost, spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party. After a year of campaigning and 10 weeks of postelection turmoil, Brost could hardly believe it was actually happening.
But nothing stopped a triumphant Gregoire from walking into the state House chamber, shaking hands with ecstatic Democrats and sullen Republicans.
"It was amazing, absolutely amazing," Brost said.
Gregoire's inauguration included all the traditional trappings: bagpipes wailing "God Bless America," applause echoing off the marble-walled Capitol, flashbulbs popping as she raised her right hand to take the oath of office.
Yet no one could deny this was an inauguration unlike any other, following an election unlike any other. At first it looked like a stunning upset: Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, lost the first two vote counts to former Republican state senator Dino Rossi. But a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots declared Gregoire the winner by just 129 votes.
Rossi is contesting the election in court, with a hearing scheduled for Jan. 20. The slight but very real possibility that the election results could be overturned tinged Wednesday's festivities with uncertainty.
"We're all a little more pensive," said Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, as she paused after the ceremony in the newly refurbished state Capitol.
Inaugural ball planners worked through the uncertainty of two recounts, and hustled to sell the $75 tickets once Gregoire was declared the winner. By Tuesday night they had sold 3,500, the break-even point for the ball, which is funded entirely by ticket sales.
As Gregoire's inauguration wrapped up, 240 volunteer chefs with white coats poured out of buses and into heated tents surrounding the Capitol. Navy chefs from Submarine Base Bangor near Bremerton were preparing the governor's dinner, said Michael Higgins with the Washington Chef's Association, while student chefs from 12 community colleges worked on approximately 30,000 appetizers.
Meanwhile, Rossi supporters in Olympia nursed their wounds at an alternative party Wednesday night hosted by the Building Industry Association of Washington - dubbed "The Governor's Brawl" by some Republicans.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire talks with a visitor in her office Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2005 at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. about 90 minutes before her scheduled grand entrace at the Inaugural Ball. Earlier in the day, Gregoire was sworn in as the 22nd Governor of Washington state.
Rossi did not attend, and Jerri Honeyford, the wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside, said she had picked out a lovely dress anticipating Rossi's inaugural, but "I don't feel like celebrating."
"Really, deep down in my heart, I don't think she (Gregoire) won," Honeyford said as she and several dozen Rossi supporters chatted in the basement of the BIA building a few blocks from the Capitol.
State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said she didn't feel she was missing anything by not attending Gregoire's inaugural ball.
"You know what an inaugural ball is?" she asked. "You stand on marble in heels for five hours and there's no place to sit down."
She said the alternative party was "a way to keep our spirits up and find some camaraderie."
At the inauguration ceremony earlier, Lt. Gov. Brad Owen tried to keep the atmosphere a bit lighter as the master of ceremonies.
"I haven't had this much fun since the first time I saw Ralph Munro in a kilt," Owen quipped, referring to the longtime former secretary of state.
But the levity did not dispel the sense that a cloud hovered over the ceremony, with Republicans sitting stony-faced and not applauding for Gregoire.
Nothing could dim the excitement for Vernon Reis, however. Gregoire invited Reis, her sixth grade English teacher, to the inauguration - he didn't know he'd be sitting with former governors and would be introduced by Gregoire as the person who "opened the world to me through books."
"It was my first year of teaching and even if she weren't governor she would be a standout," Reis, 71, said after the speech. "She was a model student - very intelligent, super-organized, highly motivated. When you gave her a project or something she could cut through the chaff and get right to it."
Reis said he felt bad for Gregoire through the postelection turmoil. And he noticed the Republicans not clapping, but said he's not worried about the challenges facing his former student.
"Knowing Chris I think she has the ability to cut through the chaff and get to it," Reis said. "I think she's going to surprise a lot of people."
Biography of Christine Gregoire
From KING 5 Staff and Wire Report
Gregoire lost the first two counts in the amazingly close election, but won by just 129 votes after a hand recount of 2.9 million ballots.
Three counts are all that's mandated under Washington law, but the battle will continue in the courts. Republican Dino Rossi's election challenge is scheduled for Friday.
For the time being, however, it appears Gregoire will be the state's next governor. Here's a look at what we know about her and what she promised to do for the state of Washington if elected.
Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire
BORN: March 25, 1947 in Adrian, Mich., moved to Washington as an infant.
Developing what she called a "predictable tuition policy". She also promised to give incentives to businesses to invest in high-demand education slots; insure higher-ed students can graduate on time in order to create space for others and to look into establishing another four-year school.
Gregoire also talked of bringing "performance agreements" to state schools.
But during the campaign, she said her administration would take "hard-nosed" look at some 430 tax exemptions totaling more than 45 billion every two years.
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