Christine "Chris" O'Grady Gregoire (/ˈɡrɛɡwɑːr/; born March 24, 1947) is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 22nd Governor of the state of Washington from 2005 to 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, Gregoire defeated Republican candidate Dino Rossi in 2004 and again in 2008. She is the second female governor of Washington. She was the National Governors Association chairwoman for the 2010–11 term. After she left the governorship, some sources reported that she was being considered for a position in Barack Obama's cabinet in his second term, possibly in the State Department, or as United States Secretary of the Interior. However, John Kerry became the United States Secretary of State, while Sally Jewell was nominated for the position of Interior Secretary.
Gregoire formerly served on the Governors’ Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
Gregoire was born in Adrian, Michigan. She was raised in Auburn, Washington, by her mother, Sybil Grace Jacobs (née Palmer), who worked as a short-order cook to support the family. After graduating from Auburn Senior High School, she attended the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech and sociology. At UW, she became a member of the Sigma Iota chapter of the Kappa Delta sorority. She then attended law school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, receiving her Juris Doctor in 1977.
She went to work as an assistant attorney general in the office of state Attorney General Slade Gorton, a Republican. As an assistant attorney general, Gregoire concentrated on child-abuse cases, coordinating with social workers to get children removed from abusive family situations and placed with relatives or foster homes.
Elected to office as Attorney General in 1992, Gregoire's term included a scandal wherein her office failed to file a timely appeal on a $17.8M judgment against the state; at that time the largest such judgment in Washington State history. The court determined "the Attorney General's Office lacked any reasonable procedure for calendaring hearings".
Gregoire defeated Ron Sims and four other minor candidates in the primary election on September 14, 2004. She had come under fire during the primary for her membership in Kappa Delta and for that sorority's nonwhite membership policy in the late 1960s. She clashed with Sims over her position at the sorority and Sims later dropped the issue and dismissed any claims of racism. Sims campaigned on the need for tax reform and the institution of a statewide income tax. Gregoire won the primary with over 60% of the vote.
During the general election against former state senator and real estate agent Dino Rossi, Gregoire proposed a major initiative in life sciences, especially by increasing state funding for embryonic stem cell research. In debates, Gregoire tried to counter voter unease about the state government by saying she would "blow past the bureaucracy" and bring change herself. With a focus on change, but with little detail on specifics, many state Democratic leaders expressed concerns about the kind of leader Gregoire would be. Gregoire would win the backing of the Legislature within six months after pushing through a number of important measures on car emission standards and unemployment benefits.
The election was held on November 2, 2004, with the initial count showing Gregoire trailing Rossi by 261 votes. However, a legally mandated machine recount reduced that lead to only 42 votes, then a hand count that was requested and funded by the state's Democratic Party gave Gregoire a 10-vote lead. Following a State Supreme Court ruling that allowed several hundred ballots from King County to be included, her lead was further increased to 130 votes, but when the vote was certified by the state's Secretary of State, Sam Reed, at the end of December, one vote which had been counted in Thurston County past the deadline was disqualified and her lead was reduced to 129 votes. Washington's Republican leadership then filed suit, claiming that hundreds of votes, including votes by felons, deceased voters, and double voters, were included in the canvass, but on June 6, 2005, Judge John E. Bridges ruled that the Republican party did not provide enough evidence that the disputed votes were ineligible—or for whom they were cast—to overturn the election.
On October 28, 2004, the Seattle Times reported that out-of-state donors were contributing heavily to Gregoire's campaign coffers. More than $1,000,000 was given to the Democratic Governors Association from trial lawyers who had worked closely with Gregoire on the 1998 tobacco settlement. According to the Seattle Times' analysis, nearly half of Gregoire's 2004 campaign contributions came from out-of-state.
The first legislative session ended with Gregoire brokering new bipartisan transportation legislation. The package included a 9.5-cent-a-gallon gas-tax increase to help repair many roads in Washington, particularly in the Seattle area, including the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Interstate 405, and the Route 520 bridge.
The bill was initially blocked by Republican leadership in the Legislature and when it came to a vote in the House on the morning of the last day of the 2005 session, it was blocked again in a procedural vote. After extensive lobbying from Gregoire, House Democratic and Republican leadership met and agreed to let the measure come up for a vote. It cleared the House shortly thereafter and was swiftly passed by the state Senate and she signed it into law later that week.
The tax package was met with mixed reviews. While she was praised widely by Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate for her leadership skills regarding passing this deal, several state legislators disagreed with the merits of the tax because of the already high price of gas. An initiative to repeal the tax, Measure No. 912, was a part of the November 2005 ballot, but was rejected by the voters.
Gregoire's agenda for the 2006 legislative session included implementing education reforms, including early childhood education programs and using international standards for math and science. She also lobbied for a constitutional amendment to make a school levy approval contingent on a majority of voter support, rather than a 60% super-majority. The amendment got the necessary 2/3 vote in the state legislature, but ultimately the state voters rejected the amendment. Gregoire spearheaded the effort to set aside a portion of the state's $1.4 billion surplus for a rainy day fund .
A landmark gay civil rights bill failed in the 2005 session but subsequently passed in the 2006 session. It was primarily responsible for expanding the scope of protected classes to include sexual orientation and gender identity in cases of discrimination. The bill was signed by Gregoire on January 31, 2006. She also signed a law on April 21, 2007 granting same-sex couples domestic partnership rights.
In June 2006, the Pharmacy Board of the Washington State Department of Health rejected a draft rule proposed by Governor Gregoire requiring all pharmacies to begin carrying Plan B levonorgestrel. Governor Gregoire responded by releasing a public statement warning the Board members to reconsider or they could be removed. In April 2007, the Board approved a final rule prohibiting pharmacies from refusing to provide Plan B for religious reasons but allowing exemptions for “good faith” business reasons.
When Ralph’s Thriftway, a grocery store in Olympia, refused to carry Plan B for religious reasons, it was widely boycotted, leading Gregoire to cancel the grocer’s longstanding account with the Washington Governor's Mansion. The grocer sued under the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution. On February 22, 2012, after four years of discovery and a twelve-day bench trial, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton issued a permanent injunction blocking the Plan B rule as unconstitutional. However, on July 23, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Judge Susan P. Graber reversed, and the Supreme Court of the United States declined to review the case on June 28, 2016. Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented, writing that “the rules challenged here reflect antipathy towards religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power.”
In October 2005, Gregoire sent a letter to the state's Gambling Commission recommending that it renegotiate a compact with the Spokane Native American tribe it had submitted for approval. The original compact would have allowed the tribe, and any other tribe that signed on to the compact, to have off-reservation gambling facilities, increase the number of slot machines allowed to 7,500, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, removed betting limits for some card players, and give credits to high rollers in exchange for sharing the profits from gambling with state and local governments. It was opposed by many of the state's lawmakers of both parties and by anti-gambling groups that were concerned about the spread of gambling across the state, as well as other Native American tribes. The renegotiated compact, which was signed by the Spokane and 26 other Washington tribes, was signed by Gregoire in early 2007 and eliminated the revenue sharing and off-reservation facilities, but included an increase of allowed slot machines to 4,700 with a limit of 2,000 per location, increased the betting limit of some of its slot machines to $20, and allowed high-stakes gambling on blackjack and poker tables to players who pass financial screening and aren't known problem gamblers. The tribe also agreed to donate 2 percent of the gross revenue from table games and 1 percent from gambling devices to charity.
Following a ruling by the state's supreme court that a 1% property tax cap voted into law via initiative was unconstitutional, Gregoire ordered a special session to reinstate the cap. In the days leading up to the special session Gregoire and the Democrats were accused by liberals that they were caving in to Tim Eyman, the person who submitted the property tax initiative, and rushing the legislative process to reinstate the cap but not making other, more meaningful, property tax reform.
Gregoire officially endorsed Barack Obama on February 8, 2008, hours before an event at KeyArena in Seattle where she introduced Senator Obama before a crowd of 18,000 people. The Washington caucuses were held the next day with Obama beating Clinton in every county in the state.
Gregoire began her re-election campaign at her late mother's former employer, the Rainbow Café in Auburn, Washington, on April 7, 2008. Immediately after her announcement, Gregoire began a biodiesel bus tour of the State of Washington. Her opponent in the race, Dino Rossi, had announced his candidacy in October 2007.
Both Gregoire and her opponent fast approached fundraising records early in their campaigns. In April, Gregoire hosted a fundraiser with Bill Richardson at the Seattle Westin which netted the campaign over $300,000. Later, in July, Gregoire held another large fundraiser with Michelle Obama at the WaMu Theater with 1,600 attendees raising over $400,000.
The Seattle Times reported that Gregoire gave cost of living increases to state employees who hadn't received raises in "many years", and funded voter-approved initiatives to raise the pay of schoolteachers, all groups that gave money to fund her 2004 recount campaign.
Gregoire won Washington's first ever top two primary on August 19, 2008 with 49%. She advanced to the general election against Dino Rossi. The general election on November 4 was expected to be close, but Gregoire benefited from a large turnout among Democrats to vote for Barack Obama in the United States Presidential election and ended up defeating Rossi 53% to 47%. There was a marked geographical split in the 2008 election: the more populous and Democratic-leaning Western Washington counties supported Gregoire, whilst the less populous and more Republican-leaning Eastern Washington counties supported Rossi.
Before the start of the 2009 legislative session, four separate unions representing state workers filed lawsuits against the governor for suggesting that the workers' pay raises be dropped as part of addressing the looming state budget deficit.
On January 4, 2012, Gregoire announced her support for same-sex marriage and pledged to sign a marriage bill if it were passed by the legislature. The bill was passed on February 8, 2012. Gregoire signed the bill on February 13. Opponents of the bill collected the necessary signatures to place it on the November ballot, where it was approved by 53.7% of the voters. The law took effect December 6.
Gregoire's term ended in January 2013 and her official portrait was painted by artist Michele Rushworth.
On July 1, Gregoire began a term as a board member for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Larry Corey, an M.D. and the director of the Hutchinson Center commented, "As governor, Chris Gregoire was a visionary leader and advocate of biomedical research. Under her watch she proposed a major initiative in the life sciences. Gregoire will be instrumental in helping to shine a spotlight on the lifesaving work of the Hutchinson Center and how it contributes to the health and well-being of people throughout the state and the world."
From August to December 2014, Gregoire took a position as a Fall Fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School in Harvard Square, where she spent time engaging with students at the School about leadership in various positions of government.
Gregoire's first child, Courtney, was born in Spokane in 1979. In 2013, Courtney was appointed to the Seattle Port Commission. Her second daughter, Michelle, was born in 1984. When not in Olympia, Gregoire lives in the nearby city of Lacey with her husband Michael.
In 2003, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in an early stage after a routine check-up and a mammogram. She had surgery and recovered. She mentions her fight with cancer in speeches about health care.
In 2009, Gregoire became the recipient of a sort of tongue-in-cheek Fuse "Fizzle" Award. The awards program is aimed at promoting leadership and accountability in the Washington State Legislature.
|Populist||Homer L. Brand||32,124||1.48|
|Attorney General of Washington
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for Governor of Washington
|Chair of Democratic Governors Association
|Governor of Washington
|Chair of National Governors Association