New York governor helps Gregoire raise big bucks

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

June 14, 1007

Seattle, WA - If Dino Rossi or some other Republican decides to run against Gov. Chris Gregoire next year, he'll start more than $2 million behind.

With a Seattle fund-raising luncheon starring a fellow Democratic governor, Elliot Spitzer of New York, Gregoire's 2008 re-election juggernaut raked in $250,000 Wednesday, pushing total donations to her campaign past $2 million. Even before the event, she had more than $1.2 million in the bank.

Spitzer's political star power helped fill a cavernous ballroom of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center with nearly 1,100 Gregoire supporters who paid tiered ticket prices ranging from $100 to $2,800 to be there.

Besides being fellow former state attorneys general, Spitzer, who was elected governor last year, recalled that he and Gregoire had something else in common: barely winning elections.

When elected New York attorney general in 1998, Spitzer won by just 25,168 votes in the state's closest statewide race in decades. And, like Gregoire's 133-vote victory over Rossi in 2004 -- the closest statewide race in Washington history -- Spitzer said he had to wait for "recount after recount after recount."

He predicted Gregoire will win 68 percent of the vote next year.

"Let us learn from history. Let us not repeat history," Gregoire said of her near-defeat.

Spitzer's message was that he and Gregoire "believe in the mission of government" -- in contrast, he said, to those who believe government is irrelevant.

He said the Bush administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrine stemmed from an attitude that "because we don't believe in the mission, we won't even try to help" those in need.

Spitzer made a name for himself by waging war with Wall Street as New York attorney general. As attorneys general, he and Gregoire worked together on, among other things, the successful, multi-state litigation against the tobacco industry.

"We said, 'Don't sell a product that causes cancer and lie about it,'" Spitzer said.

What he didn't mention -- but what state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser later did -- were what Esser called Spitzer's "enthusiastic efforts to destroy one of the basic engines of Washington's economy, Microsoft."

Spitzer, along with 16 other states and the Justice Department, sued to break up the Redmond-based company. Esser, in a news release, noted a 2000 press release in which Spitzer ballyhooed his battle with Microsoft.

Before introducing Spitzer, Gregoire cited what she said the state has accomplished during her administration: more than 155,000 new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in state history, big investments in education and a cleanup of Puget Sound, and -- without specifically mentioning the new gay-rights law -- "a state that proudly says, 'We believe in equal rights. There will be no discrimination.'"

With no Republican gubernatorial candidate to do it for him, the GOP's Esser fired a broadside at other parts of Gregoire's record, accusing her of "serial mismanagement as attorney general and as governor."

They include, he said, the attorney general office's missed deadline of an appeal of a court judgment that cost the state $19 million, and a $1.5 million settlement of a wrongful termination suit by the state lawyer whom Gregoire blamed for the botched appeal.

Rossi has frustrated some Republicans with his Hamlet-like refusal to be rushed into deciding whether to take on Gregoire again next year. If he doesn't, the GOP has no ready back-up candidate.

Meanwhile, Gregoire is scooping up money. Since May 31, when her donations stood at $1.87 million and her campaign treasury had $1.23 million, she has raised another $350,000, including the take from Wednesday's luncheon, said Tracy Newman, her finance director.

Rossi reiterated Wednesday that he will decide whether to run "by the end of the year." Esser said, "Eighty percent of what I do is trying to convince (Rossi) to say yes."

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



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