Strikes’ resolution crucial to Gregoire

Some of Gov. Chris Greg­oire’s best moves since the primary election came on the infield of Denver’s NFL stadium dancing to the music of Stevie Wonder.

As she cut it up in the hours before Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, Dino Rossi was trying to reach those voters, tuning in to watch, who are undecided in this state’s race for governor.

In a superbly played move, Rossi ran television commercials before and after Obama’s acceptance speech. Rossi can’t measure the net worth yet but he enjoyed a rare uncontested moment on the airwaves in front of potential voters.

In hindsight one can only wonder why Gregoire didn’t air her own commercial featuring clips of Michelle Obama from their joint fundraiser this summer in Seattle.

And, why did the governor spend four days at the convention without getting a ray of the national spotlight when her grudge match with Rossi is the showcase gubernatorial duel.

Without knowing the answers, Gregoire and her campaign team seem to be making the sort of miscues that cost elections.

They’ve no time to ponder the past with the strikes at Boeing and in the Bellevue School District posing two new challenges to her leadership.

She’s responded to them differently and neither has run its course so it’s too soon to assess their effects politically. Though Rossi’s been silent on the matters, he’s apparently reaping some reward already.

With Boeing, Gregoire did speak with company and union leaders and encouraged them to continue negotiations to try to avert the strike that she knows will hurt the economies of Snohomish County and the state if it lasts very long.

Gregoire’s allies are convinced she won’t pay a political price for the strike because she tried to prevent it.

Not everyone sees it that way. With emotions high, some union workers and county residents think she meddled and say they won’t be checking the ballot box next to her name.

In the Bellevue labor conflict, Gregoire, as of Friday, had not dialed up negotiators for the district and teachers union as she did with Boeing.

The longer it runs, the more likely she will become involved because education is a paramount duty of the state. And right now it’s not happening in one of Washington’s largest school districts.

Here the political cost is potentially greater than with Boeing.

Those picketing are from a statewide union prominently helping re-elect Gregoire and spending thousands of dollars of its own to beat Rossi. She won’t chance alienating the teachers and their union, the Washington Education Association, by pressuring them to get back to work.

Neither can she risk the appearance of watching and not leading in this dispute. Rossi and special interests backing him won’t wait long to accuse her of inaction because of her ties with the union.

It’s a narrow and perilous path for an incumbent this close to an election. To intercede without success could be a misstep from which she can’t recover.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or

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