GOP loses another possible candidate for governor - Wireless billionaire Stanton says he won't run



Olympia, WA - For the second time in less than a month, the state Republican Party has lost one of its most ardently recruited prospects for governor in 2004.

John Stanton, 47, the billionaire chief executive of Western Wireless, disclosed to political and business associates this week that he won't be a candidate, sources told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer yesterday.

King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, after a year of testing a possible gubernatorial candidacy, announced June 20 that he wasn't running. He hinted that he might consider a campaign for county executive in 2005.

That leaves two other Republicans who are being urged to run for governor: Bob Herbold, who was chief operating officer of Microsoft Corp. until his recent retirement and is married to King County Republican Party Chairwoman Pat Herbold, and Dino Rossi of Issaquah, chairman of the state Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Federico Cruz-Uribe, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, has been campaigning for the GOP nomination for governor.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are still waiting to hear from Gov. Gary Locke, who has amassed a campaign treasury of nearly $500,000 even though he hasn't said yet whether he will seek a third term next year.

If he doesn't, state Attorney General Christine Gregoire is considered nearly certain to seek the Democratic nomination. King County Executive Ron Sims is another possibility.

Republicans had salivated at the prospect of a Stanton candidacy -- that of a dynamic, well-respected if politically unknown business leader who could pour his own wealth into a campaign. Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, among others, had been urging him to run.

Besides heading Western Wireless, Stanton is chairman of T-Mobile USA and a part-owner of both the Mariners and the Sonics. He is married with two young sons.

Stanton couldn't be reached for comment last night, nor could state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance. When Reichert dropped out of the governor's race last month, Vance had said he was "determined that we're going to have one candidate for governor, one candidate for the U.S. Senate, and we're going to be up and going by early July."

Vance has vowed to avoid a repeat of the party's recent history of sometimes fractious primaries that nominated candidates too conservative to be elected statewide.

"There will be no Republican primary" for governor, the party chairman said last month. So far, there is no Republican candidate, either. Like Stanton, Herbold is a wealthy business and civic leader and GOP campaign donor who could finance much of his own campaign. He was out of town yesterday and couldn't be reached for comment.

Pat Herbold said she had heard of Stanton's decision not to run but that she didn't know how seriously her own husband is mulling a possible campaign for governor. "He has talked to people. I'm sure he's giving thought to it," she said.

Rossi, an articulate, popular figure with the Republican rank and file, elevated his political profile this year by dominating the Legislature's budget process.

He pushed a no-new-taxes budget through the Republican-dominated Senate and past the Democratic-controlled House with Locke's concurrence.

Rossi has been considering a campaign for governor but couldn't be reached for comment last night. If he runs, his chairmanship of the budget-writing Senate Ways and Means Committee would enhance greatly his ability to raise money. But a possible minus for him would be that his Senate seat is up for election next year, so he'd have to choose between re-election and trying for governor.

If Herbold and Rossi rule out running for governor, and U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, decides against challenging Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., next year, Republicans say Vance could be the party's fallback draftee for either race.

Another outside possibility for governor could be King County Councilman Rob McKenna, R-Bellevue.

McKenna, however, is looking at a campaign for attorney general, at least if Gregoire runs for governor.

P-I reporter Neil Modie can be reached at 206-448-8321 or


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