Chris Gregoire
For the last four years or so, there have been three very poorly kept secrets in Washington state politics: that Dem incumbent Chris Gregoire would not seek a third term, and that Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee and Republican AG Rob McKenna would vie to replace her in 2012. Secret #3 got unveiled last week with McKenna's announcement of his candidacy... and today the main domino has fallen into place, with Gregoire's announcement that she wouldn't run again.
Gov. Chris Gregoire said Monday she will not run again.

'Today, I say I will not run for a third term as governor of this great state," she said at an Olympia news conference.

Gregoire has kept up a "maybe I will, maybe I won't" song and dance for the last couple years in order to ward off lame-duck-itis and give her some additional leverage in dealing with the state's (Democratic-controlled) legislature, but this move comes as no surprise to anyone on the ground, especially since she's reportedly been angling for the Attorney General position in a second Obama administration. While a third term is allowed under Washington law, tradition basically forecloses it: no one has even attempted it, let alone won a third term, since then-super-popular Republican Gov. Dan Evans did it in 1972. (Which, seeing as how he was the state's last popular Republican, also happens to be the last time a Republican was re-elected as Governor.)

The watch now turns to Inslee, who has previously said that he'd get in if Gregoire got out, and presumably will be announcing soon. A recent PPP poll had the race a dead heat, with Inslee trailing McKenna by 2, but with a bigger slice of the Dems undecided, presaging a very close race in 2012. The interesting question at this point is whether the field is already set one-and-half-years out, or if anyone else of consequence gets in the Top 2 primary? The GOP side is probably set, as the only other A-lister who'd been interested in the race, Rep. Dave Reichert, just threw his backing behind McKenna. The only other GOPer who's been floating his name is Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant, who's little known in Seattle let alone outside of it, and would set up an unusual moderate vs. moderate primary. Of course, given McKenna's carefully-constructed wonky, nonconfrontational image, it's possible he'll face a challenge from a teabagger-to-be-named-later, but probably not one with a statewide profile.

For the Democrats, if there's any primary opposition to Inslee, the likeliest opponent may wind up being state Auditor Brian Sonntag, who previously said he'd run in the special election that would have been created had Gregoire been named Solicitor General... however, it's not clear whether that extends to the regularly-scheduled election, and right now he just says he's considering it. (Sonntag is considered more conservative than most other statewide Democrats.) Another oft-mentioned name, Treasurer Jim McIntire, says he's running for re-election instead. There have also been rumors that state party brokers have been trying to prod up-and-coming King County Executive Dow Constantine into the race, leery that Inslee (from WA-01) isn't familiar-enough to residents of suburban King County, which is where McKenna is from... a Constantine candidacy seems very unlikely though. One other name that got some early gubernatorial buzz was state Sen. majority leader Lisa Brown, but her name has more recently gotten associated with running for Lt. Governor, which would require primarying out current waste-of-space Brad Owen.

This also sets up some musical chairs further down the ballot. Inslee vacating pretty-safely-blue (62% Obama) WA-01 has already attracted two strong Democratic contenders, state Rep. Marko Liias and former state Rep. Laura Ruderman (Liias is very liberal, Ruderman more moderate). This race may also wind up including state Rep. Roger Goodman, currently running against Reichert in the 8th but who may possibly find his Kirkland home added to the 1st instead... and, of course, rumor has it that Dennis Kucinich may be beaming down to this district to in an unprecedented bit of carpetbagging.

And the AG race, to replace McKenna, has also taken shape very quickly: on the Democratic side, both former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg (who lost to McKenna in 2008) and King County Councilor Bob Ferguson are in the race, while King County Councilor Reagan Dunn is expected to be the GOP's candidate here. (If his name sounds familiar, he's the son of ex-Rep. Jennifer Dunn.)

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Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Mon Jun 13, 2011 at 10:32 AM PDT.

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