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Originally published October 29, 2009 at 12:12 AM | Page modified October 29, 2009 at 2:31 AM

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Hutchison faults Gregoire, Constantine on 787 decision

King County executive candidate Susan Hutchison lashed out at her opponent, Dow Constantine, and Gov. Chris Gregoire for Boeing's decision to move a 787 assembly line to South Carolina, saying it represented an "abject failure of our government and our elected officials."

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County executive candidate Susan Hutchison lashed out at her opponent, Dow Constantine, and Gov. Chris Gregoire after Boeing's decision to move a 787 assembly line to South Carolina, saying it represented an "abject failure of our government and our elected officials."

While acknowledging that the company's chief reason for moving was its testy relations with the Machinists union, Hutchison said at a Wednesday news conference outside KeyArena that a Boeing official told her the state business climate and traffic congestion were also factors.

A Boeing spokesman declined to respond to Hutchison's comments. The spokesman, Bernard Choi, said labor issues were a "big part" of Boeing's decision "but it wasn't the only piece." Business climate, cost-competitiveness and "a number of other issues" drove the decision, he said.

When asked specifically if she blamed Constantine, she said no. But Constantine is "not business-friendly," she said.

She tried to connect the company's problems with the Machinists union to Constantine, saying that his campaign has been funded by unions and claiming he is "beholden" to organized labor.

She also faulted Gregoire, saying the governor walked a picket line with Machinists last year and hosted a fundraiser for Constantine on Tuesday.

Constantine's spokesman said Hutchison's comments were the sign of a desperate candidate trailing in the latest poll.

"As her desperation increases, her true beliefs are starting to shine through. She repeatedly claims she intends to bring people together and then launches this screed against every official in the state and the federal delegation," said Sandeep Kaushik.

"She claims she is going to work closely with labor organizations to find solutions and then blames them for everything wrong under the sun and in the process she is badly distorting Dow Constantine's record."

Constantine has been endorsed by the Alki Foundation, the political arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Kaushik noted. He also supported a $17.9 billion roads-and-transit ballot measure in 2007 that would've improved congestion choke points in the region and fixed the crumbling South Park Bridge, a high priority for Boeing.

In response to similar attacks from Republican legislators on Wednesday, Gregoire said a top Boeing executive told her the company's move was about labor costs above all.

In a written statement, the governor said, Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, "specifically said it's not about workers' compensation and it's not about state taxes.

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"It's about the cost of salaries and benefits to the workers we have in Everett versus what we can pay in Charleston. And it's about having work stoppages that would be hard for their clients."

In the waning days of the campaign, Hutchison has stepped up her attacks, holding two news conferences in two days to blast Constantine.

In response to another question at the news conference, Hutchison asserted that she could bring an NBA team back to the Seattle area

"I will do what is necessary. We've got investors standing by ... I will advocate for the 1.8 million people of this county at the state level to make sure a public-private partnership is approved. I will spend whatever time is necessary in New York to convince (NBA Commissioner) David Stern that a franchise needs to come back from whatever city is necessary."

Would she use county taxes to help build a new arena, or to renovate KeyArena? "I don't know what the package is going to look like," she said.

Kaushik said Constantine is a "huge sports fan and has a strong understanding of the value that sports franchises bring to the community in terms of culture and the economy."

Constantine was the first person to testify in the state Senate last year in support of a bill that would have allowed existing taxes to be used to renovate KeyArena, Kaushik said.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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