[POLITICS] More on Gary Locke
- THE NATION
Washington's Governor Bows Out of 2004 Race
Gary Locke is popular with state voters and national Democrats.
Republicans take heart from his decision to step aside after two
By Tomas Alex Tizon, LA Times Staff Writer
SEATTLE Washington Gov. Gary Locke, who has managed to remain
popular in his home state despite its economic woes, announced Monday
that he would not seek a third term leaving the 2004 governor's
race wide open.
The country's first Chinese American governor and chairman of the
Democratic Governors' Assn., Locke, 53, said in an interview that he
and his wife had been "going back and forth" for weeks, and finally
made the decision in the last few days.
"In the end, it came down to what was best for the family," Locke
said, and they decided that was "living as normal a life as possible."
The couple have a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son. The
governor said the family would move back to its Seattle residence
from Olympia, the state capital, when his term ends in 18 months.
But until then, he said, he intends to "push the pedal to the metal."
Paul Berendt, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he
was "bitterly disappointed" by Locke's announcement, because he and
other local political observers believed the governor would have been
a shoo-in for a third term. Locke already had raised nearly $500,000
for his reelection campaign, dwarfing the war chest of his declared
Democratic rival, former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge.
Within minutes of Locke's announcement Monday, state Atty. Gen.
Christine Gregoire, also a Democrat, announced her candidacy for
governor. Locke and Gregoire, who are friends, had been talking in
the last couple of months about the 2004 election. Locke said
Gregoire had decided she would run only if he stepped down.
Local Republicans were heartened by the governor's announcement,
seeing an opportunity in the next election.
"The Democratic Party just lost their best candidate," said Chris
Vance, chairman of the state Republican Party.
Washington's last GOP governor was John Spellman, who lost a
reelection bid in 1984. So far, no Republican has announced a
gubernatorial run, but Vance said the party intends to take over the
top spot next year.
"The state of Washington has huge problems, and it needs a change,"
Vance said, citing a high unemployment rate, a congested road system
and a neglected rural economy.
Locke, who was the national Democratic Party's choice to rebut
President Bush's State of the Union address in January, said he would
spend the rest of his term focusing on education, jobs, health care
and the environment.
Asked what his next career move would be, Locke was vague. Although
there's been talk that he could serve as a foundation or university
president or work for one of the region's corporate giants, such as
Microsoft Corp. or the Boeing Co. he said it's all just
"I haven't given it any thought yet," Locke said.
When Locke completes his second term in January 2005, he will have
been in the public sector for 27 years, starting as a deputy King
County prosecutor. It's been a lifetime of achievement for the second
of five children of Chinese immigrants. Locke grew up in a public
housing project in Seattle, and went on to earn degrees from Yale and
Boston University. He was a longtime state legislator and also served
as King County executive.
Berendt said it would be premature "to write Gary Locke's political
The Democratic Party chairman described Locke as "a young guy" with a
lot of potential to return to the political scene. He said he could
envision Locke running for the U.S. Senate down the road; and if the
Democrats retake the White House, Berendt said, "he would be on top
of many lists for a Cabinet post or an ambassadorship."
Locke laughed at the mention of these possibilities, saying: "I
haven't received a single phone call yet."