OLYMPIA — Former Gov. Gary Locke, the nation’s first Chinese-American governor, has signed on as state co-chairman of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s bid for president.
Locke will join King County Executive Ron Sims and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee as state co-chairmen for Clinton. Inslee is national co-chairman of Clinton’s energy and environment advisers and Sims, the state’s top-ranking black officeholder, is a member of the panel.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon also has endorsed Clinton.
Locke and the Clinton campaign announced his endorsement in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of a planned announcement Monday.
“Gary was a visionary governor and he will be a tremendous asset to our campaign as we take our message of change across Washington,” Clinton said in a prepared statement. “I’m honored to have his support.”
Locke said the New York senator and former first lady “can deliver the change this country needs,” and has the strength to be commander in chief as the U.S. winds down the Iraq war.
Locke, a two-term governor who left office in 2005, has long been an ally of Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Locke campaigned for the Clinton-Gore ticket, once joining a campaign bus caravan through southwest Washington. After winning the governor’s mansion in 1996, Locke and his wife sat with Hillary Clinton at a State of the Union address and were overnight guests at the White House.
Locke, the son of Chinese immigrants, called his election “the great American dream.” He grew up in the Seattle housing projects and didn’t speak English until he entered kindergarten. He eventually won a scholarship to Yale, got a law degree and rose in politics. He gave the Democrats’ response to President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, hosted the National Governors’ Conference that year, and headed the Democratic Governors’ Association.
Locke joined a blue chip law firm in Seattle two years ago after ending a 22-year public career that also included stints as King County executive and the top budget post in the state House.
Locke said he admires some of the other Democratic contenders, mentioning Sen. Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
“But only Hillary Clinton has the breadth of experience, the knowledge and the skills necessary to lead our country at a time when leadership is so sorely needed,” Locke said.
“It is so critically important that we elect a Democrat to the White House. I’m looking forward to helping out on the campaign and very, very confident she will win the nomination. I plan to spend a lot of time trying to get her elected. She is so in tune with needs and priorities of this country.”
Rep. Adam Smith has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. Neither Gov. Chris Gregoire nor the state’s two Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, have endorsed.
On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is state chairman for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and is national co-chairman of Law Enforcement for Rudy.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is supported by state Attorney General Rob McKenna, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro and former Sen. Slade Gorton. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Fred Thompson also have backers here.
Locke also will be appointed Monday as national co-chairman of the campaign Technology and Telecom Work Group. Locke said that’s testament to Washington’s recognized leadership in software, biotechnology, health research, biofuel and putting government services online.