If not McKenna, others could challenge Inslee in 2016

If you’re a Republican with thoughts of running for governor in 2016 know this: Rob McKenna will not stand in your way.

He’s told insiders of the Grand Old Party he’s not interested in a rematch with Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to whom he lost by a couple percentage points in November.

That’s not to say he won’t change his mind.

McKenna launched a political site earlier this week to help keep his name in the news and spread his ideas on state government. If it attracts enough interest and financial support he might not be able to stay out of the race.

Remember Dino Rossi, another popular Republican, kept insisting he was out of the U.S. Senate race in 2010 until he was in it.

But McKenna is enjoying a well-paying gig with a Seattle law firm and a steady income is a good thing when your four children are enrolled in or bound for higher education.

Who will be the party’s torchbearer in 2016 if McKenna isn’t?

Here are a few of the better known names one hears tossed around these days. Check back in a few months and the list could be much different.

Congressman Dave Reichert of Auburn: The former King County sheriff is in his fifth term in Congress from whence Inslee came. Reichert could be the 8th Congressional District representative for life but his sights are on something grander. Most figure it’s the U.S. Senate though running the state might be too attractive to pass on.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane: She is in her fifth term and is chairwoman of the GOP caucus making her the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress. She enjoys the national stage more than that of Olympia where she spent four terms as a state lawmaker. That might be reason enough for her to abstain from the governor’s race.

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas: She’s 34, in her second term and clearly a rising star for the party. A 2016 contest might be too soon for her career. Plus, her announcement Tuesday that her unborn child has a serious medical condition requires such talk be put on hold because her family comes first.

State Sen. Steve Litzow of Mercer Island: Litzow is a moderate on fiscal and social issues though you might not realize it because he’s refused to break ranks with his conservative caucus to pass a bill he co-sponsored on abortion rights. A former public school teacher, his strongest suit is education which is a proven winning issue with voters.

State Sen. Andy Hill of Redmond: Hill is the lead budget writer for the Senate Majority Coalition, an impressive assignment for a freshman senator. He’s also a cancer survivor. That combination — knowledge of numbers and compelling personal story — generally adds up to electoral success. The question for Hill is whether he’s ambitious enough to seek the job.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane: Ambition is not a problem for Baumgartner who took on U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell in 2012 and lost badly. This session he’s in the loop for writing budgets and setting policy for the state’s universities, gaining knowledge and making contacts which could prove useful should higher office beckon.

And, of course, Rob McKenna if he changes his mind.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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