State Attorney General Rob McKenna officially announced a 2012 bid for governor Wednesday night before supporters gathered in the theater of his alma mater, Sammamish High School.
McKenna focused his issues on job creation, increasing education funding and state government reform.
McKenna said that he would increase funding for public schools and public colleges and universities by cutting back on state government, saying that if education funding were at historic percentages, the schools would have $3 billion more in a biennium than they have now.
“What we can’t do, is to give 30 to 40 percent of state workers a five percent pay hike in the next biennium,” he said. “Secondly, we need to control state costs and free up money for education and job creation by, frankly, having fewer state employees.”
He said that massive layoffs could be avoided through state employee retirements and attrition, which he said has historically been at 5 to 7 percent of state employees.
McKenna, a Bellevue resident, has been in public office since he was first elected in 1995 to Metropolitan King County Council. He was elected to be state Attorney General in 2004.
Narrowing of the field
McKenna's announcement comes more than a year before the gubernatorial Republican primary in August 2012 and the general election in November of next year.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, has not yet declared whether she will run for a third term. U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, is expected to run if Gregoire decides not to seek reelection.
State Republican Party chairman Kirby Wilbur said that McKenna's announcement narrows the Republican 2012 gubernatorial field.
"There's not many who have the credibility and can stand up to challenge him in the Republican Party," Wilbur said. "It's not impossible, but it would be hard."
Wilbur said that there have been rumors that Congressman Dave Reichert might be interested in a run for governor, but "I think he's happy in Congress."
Wilbur added that McKenna could be the Republican Party's best chance at the governor's office in decades because of his broad appeal and his skill as a campaigner. The last Republican governor of Washington was John Spellman, who left office in 1985.
Wilbur said though Washington did not see the same kind of Congressional turnover that the rest of the country saw in the 2010 election, he said that the state voters showed support for conservative ideas such as rejecting the soda tax and a state income tax and approving Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds majority of the Legislature on tax increases.
Still, that did not spell victory for Republican Dino Rossi, who challenged the seat of Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat. ( and .)
"The Republican party failed to make that connection to the candidates," Wilbur said. "And the Democrats had a better ground game. Credit to them. But we'll improve our ground game."
However, Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said that McKenna's record is not as bipartisan as his campaign presents, highlighting McKenna's support of a lawsuit to stop President Barack Obama's health care bill and his appearance at Tax Day demonstrations, which have been organized by Tea Party Republicans. ()
"Far from the moderate he pretends to be, Rob McKenna has spent his time in public office taking marching orders from the far right-wing of the Republican Party — headlining Tea Party rallies, undercutting working families, and wasting taxpayer dollars on a highly partisan effort to block Washingtonians from accessing high quality, affordable health care," Pelz said in a news release.
— Information from used in this report.