In the Issaquah Highlands it's not unusual to find residents who support Obama for president but back Rossi, a Repbulican, for governor over Gregoire, a Democrat.
Seattle Times staff columnist
ISSAQUAH HIGHLANDS — Alice Abercrombie, who moved here from China 19 years ago, is about to vote for the first time in her life.
"Obama!" she exclaimed, when I came into her Issaquah Highlands beauty salon to ask about her political favorites.
A brand-new voter, excited about the top of the ticket. You'd think that would be great news for Democrats.
So how about for governor?
"I like that Dino Rossi," she said. "I don't know for sure how I will vote. But most people who come in just like Dino."
Welcome to Gov. Chris Gregoire's nightmare. Issaquah and dozens of fast-growing suburbs like it figure to be her main hurdle to winning the 2008 Gregoire v. Rossi rematch.
I can't say how they will vote. But there's something about Gregoire that doesn't feel like it's connecting in the political "swingtowns" of suburban King and Pierce counties. Or maybe something about Rossi that is.
Four years ago, Gregoire and Rossi essentially tied in one of the closest elections in U.S. history. To understand why a Democratic governor had such trouble in such a blue state, you can start by looking here.
In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won the Issaquah Highlands by eight percentage points. Yet Gregoire lost it by 12. There were at least 100 voters in one precinct here, 05-3464, who voted for Kerry for president and then immediately crossed to the other side to choose the Republican, Rossi, for governor.
It's true that Rossi lives near here, in Sammamish, and used to represent Issaquah in the state Senate. But the same trend happened in Snohomish and Pierce counties — both were won by Kerry in 2004, but lost by Gregoire.
"It's not predictable out here, by party or ideology," said Sara Winnick, 33, who came into Alice's to have her son's hair cut. "We are those people who are annoying to the political parties because we truly are independent."
They're Republicrats. Or Dempublicans. Or Don'tpigeonholemes.
Winnick described a Highlands block party at the end of summer. About half the people were for Barack Obama, half for John McCain. For governor, you couldn't assume it would break down along the same lines.
After days of asking during my unscientific rounds around the state, though, I have yet to meet someone who said they planned to vote for John McCain and Gregoire. It's Rossi who seems to have the crossover appeal. Why?
Because we're more worried about taxes on the local level, but the war on the national level, one suburbanite suggested.
Because if you're moderate what you want is someone pragmatic, not polarizing, another said.
"Rossi's informed and seems willing to work with anyone," said Rod Mason, 65, who helps run Galloping Gerties, a bar and grill near Fort Lewis in another political swingtown area, Pierce County.
He said he likes the same thing about Obama. His wife, Sue Rothwell, called herself a Democrat who is strongly for Obama yet is leaning toward Rossi because she thinks he'll be better for small businesses.
Veronica Cuschieri, 42, of Highland Park on the border of Issaquah, voted for George Bush in 2004 — and now is backing Obama to "save the middle class" and hopefully end the war.
Gregoire? Cuschieri shrugs.
"That's a hard one," she said. "She's not too popular out here, because of the way she got into office in the first place."
Issaquah Highlands coffee barista Julie Follette, 25, said she's voting for Gregoire "... because I'm poor now and so I vote for the Democrat." A former Young Republican in college, Follette is the only one I heard cite the faltering economy as a reason to vote for Gregoire. Yet many voters here say they back Obama for that reason.
Only not Follette's father, Rich, who was ordering a coffee from his daughter. He's voting for Rossi — canceling out his daughter's vote.
So it goes in the suburbs. I have no idea who is going to win this governor's race. It has been completely overshadowed by national events. That may help the incumbent, Gregoire.
The answer will come from unreadable places like Issaquah Highlands. So I wouldn't be surprised if it's another tie.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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