By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
Next week, she says goodbye, and he says hello.
“She” is Chris Gregoire who will become the former two-term governor of Washington next week. (Hold those Bronx cheers.)
“He” is Jay Inslee, the voters’ choice to succeed her. (Hey, no blowing raspberries either.) His first — and potentially only — term begins around lunch time Wednesday following a public fawning session where he’ll take the oath of office.
Once they’ve exchanged the reins of power, historians will begin drafting the first chapter of his legacy and putting the finishing touches on the epilogue of hers.
As regards Inslee, there’s not much to scrawl about yet. He’s hired a chief of staff and a chief spokesman. And, in between, on Jan. 2, he took action to seek a second term by filing paperwork to keep his campaign committee alive.
No one’s quite sure when Inslee will fill several key cabinet positions — he did announce the hiring of a budget director Wednesday — or reveal specific legislative policies he’ll pursue.
This uncertainty is a source of mild consternation for some of the Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Snohomish County I spoke with this week.
One described Inslee’s pace as “congressional speed” a reference to the glacial pace of activity at the governor-elect’s last job as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the meantime, interpretive dissections of Gregoire’s eight years as chief executive abound as she packs up to move out of the governor’s mansion.
The controversy of the 2004 election bookmarks her place in history and signing the gay marriage law assures an epitaph of her political accomplishments.
Most reviews tend to focus on the method and manner in which she piloted the state as its economy soared to new heights then crashed to historic lows.
The splendor of excess revenue early on fueled an unmatched spree of spending on her part on schools, health care and pet progressive causes. The later crush of budget deficits forced her to slice, dice and sometimes discard those very same investments.
Not much is made of whether gender factored into the shaping of her legacy probably because Gregoire isn’t the first woman to hold the job. Dixy Lee Ray, a conservative Democrat, cracked the glass ceiling with her election in 1976.
However, Gregoire is the first woman to serve two terms as governor. And she operated in an environment rippling with sexism.
It wasn’t just detractors sheltered by the Internet lashing out her as “Queen Christine.”
In one of my last conversations with the governor, she didn’t hesitate to confirm she’d encountered sexist behavior on the part of lawmakers.
“Sure. I’m probably not willing to talk about some of it,” she said. “Some of it is absolutely innocent. They don’t even see it, understand it, know it, appreciate it and it’s not intended.”
Without naming names, she recalled having to point it out to male lawmakers on more than occasion. It never reached the level where she could not work with any of them, she said.
“I’d say, ‘Do you know how people could take what you’re doing’ and they would always be like, ‘Really?’ They weren’t self-aware,” she said.
There is one unfinished chapter for the Gregoire legacy as the lifelong public servant is likely to get a job offer in the near future from President Barack Obama.
If it happens, she’ll be the one saying hello as someone in the other Washington says goodbye.
(Gov. Gregoire is scheduled to deliver her final State of the State address at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Inslee is slated to give his inaugural speech at noon Wednesday. Both will be televised live on TVW and webcast at www.tvw.org.)
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.