Reichert to skip governor's race
By Ralph Thomas
The announcement was a setback for state Republican leaders, who had been courting Reichert for months. But the party still has some high-profile potential candidates, including state Sen. Dino Rossi of Sammamish and John Stanton of Bellevue, CEO of a major telecommunications company.
Reichert said he had all but decided to run for governor in January or February after traveling the state and getting a good reception. But he has since concluded it's more important that he remain sheriff.
"I'd be walking out at the wrong time," he said.
Among other things, Reichert said he wants to stay to fight deeper cuts to the county's criminal-justice budget and to help press the case against the accused Green River killer.
Washington hasn't had a Republican governor in nearly 20 years, since John Spellman in the early 1980s.
The Republicans had high hopes in 2000, when conservative commentator John Carlson took on Democratic incumbent Gov. Gary Locke. But despite raising nearly $3 million in campaign donations, Carlson got less than 40 percent of the vote.
Locke has not announced whether he will seek a third term. But he has raised $400,000 for a possible re-election bid.
If Locke does run, he probably would face a Democratic primary challenge from former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge, who already is campaigning and raising money. King County Executive Ron Sims also is thinking about running.
The Republicans, who in recent elections have had a hard time fielding candidates who could win statewide office, are eager to find viable challengers for governor and for Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
Republicans say their statewide candidates will get a big boost in 2004 because they will be sharing the ticket with President Bush.
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance wants to have candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate signed up by next month - - more than a year before the election - so they can begin raising money, organizing their campaigns and traveling the state to build name recognition.
Republican U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane has promised he will announce by next month whether he will challenge Murray, Vance said. Nethercutt also had been considering a run for governor but decided against that.
Vance said one of the main reasons Republicans have fared so poorly in past gubernatorial races is that it took the party too long to settle on a single candidate. Some years, he said, the party had to await the outcome of "meat grinder" primaries. In 2000, Carlson didn't announce his candidacy until seven months out.
"Every cycle, we have failed," Vance said. "We can't blame anybody else but ourselves for this. I'm trying to have us act like a political party, not a disorganized mob."
Despite losing Reichert, Vance said he is confident the party will have a solid candidate for governor.
One possibility is Stanton, a successful telecommunications executive. He helped build three companies, including Western Wireless, where he still serves as chairman and chief executive.
Stanton, 47, is also part owner of the Seattle Mariners and Sonics. In recent years, he has become a major donor to the Republican Party and its candidates - - handing out more than $60,000 in 2002.
Stanton yesterday declined to comment on his political plans. But Vance said Stanton has indicated he will make a decision by next month.
Rossi, however, is not saying when he will make his decision. "I really don't feel like I have to be in that big of a rush," he said.
A second-term senator, Rossi boosted his profile significantly this year as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. With Locke as an unlikely ally, Rossi was instrumental in pushing through a new state budget that was embraced by Republicans and opposed by most Democrats and their labor union allies.
Rossi, 43, said he is not sure whether running for governor would be best for his family or his political future. He also said he would not run unless he gets firm commitments of support from national Republican Party leaders and the Bush White House.
Federico Cruz-Uribe, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, is also considering joining the Republican race for governor.
Reichert said the chief reason he's staying on as sheriff is to try to protect county criminal-justice agencies from deeper budget cuts. "Law enforcement is not a priority in the mind of the county executive," he charged.
County Executive Sims, a Democrat, appointed Reichert sheriff in 1997 and Reichert later won election to the post. Reichert endorsed Sims in his most recent re-election bid in 2001, rebuffing GOP entreaties to run against him. But in an interview yesterday, Reichert wouldn't rule out seeking the county executive's office in 2005.
King County has grappled with a budget crisis for more than two years. Criminal-justice agencies such as the sheriff's office, jail and courts account for most of the county's general-fund spending and haven't been exempted from cuts.
"We've got this continual dismantling of the criminal-justice system" Reichert said. "When is it going to end?"
He said he also wants to keep a promise to families of victims of the Green River killer to see the cases through to their conclusions, and work to improve relations between the sheriff's office and the African-American community that deteriorated after an off-duty white deputy shot and killed a black man near Renton last year.
"The time is not right," Reichert said. "There are too many things left for me to do here."
Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Times reporter Eric Pryne contributed to this report.
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