Writings and observations

Two and out?

Oregon last year just busted a record. Never in its 160 or so years had it elected the same person as governor more than twice. Both of the newer states Washington and Idaho have done that, but Oregon, never – not even Tom McCall (who sought a third term in 1978) could pull it off, until John Kitzhaber finally did last year.

Idaho has had one four-term (elected four times, in two separate runs) governor, Cecil Andrus, and two elected three times (Robert Smylie and C. Ben Ross). Washington has had just two: Daniel Evans (the only person to serve three consecutively) and Arthur Langlie, both Republicans (and each breaking the record for the youngest person in the state’s history to become governor). Both, at this point, go back a ways – Langlie in the 40s and 50s, and Evans in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Other governors, even though a number were still popular at the end of their second terms and probably could have run successfully again (Gary Locke probably could have), have generally passed.

Is the two-term thing a jinx or some sort of informal limit, or maybe an indicator that most governors just wear out their welcome after a couple of terms?

On such answers some people probably will be reflecting when the current two-term Washington governor, Chris Gregoire, announces her plans. She is going to have to do so soon. With a strong Republican, Attorney General Rob McKenna, now in the field and running hard, Gregoire cannot hold off on her intentions for very long without beginning to impair her party’ ground work.

The thinking that she will not run again is widespread and seems to be an operating presumption. She won by half a hair in 2004 and did better in 2008, but whether she could pull it off a third time is uncertain. Gregoire’s polling numbers – those publicly reported anyway – have been poor, her numbers low enough to suggest that she’d have trouble hanging on. (Some other Democratic possibles, such as Representative Jay Inslee, seem to be better-positioned.)

Another indicator, maybe, of the unnecessity of term limits, at least for some offices: In the case of some offices, like governor, voters seem to ordinarily impose their own.

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