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Friday politics: Who would want to be Washington's next governor?

With a pandemic, budget shortfalls, and unemployment among other issues, who would want to be Washington's next governor?

Jay Inslee is running for reelection against a handful of GOP challengers, but the winner will face one tough challenge come next January.

Joni Balter, host of “Civic Cocktail” on the Seattle Channel, and Q13 News political analyst C.R. Douglas spoke about that with KUOW’s Angela King -- and unpacked a political twist.

Angela King: The job for the next governor is going to be a lot different than it would have seemed a few months ago. So how attractive is this job right now?

C.R. Douglas: Not very attractive at all. There is very little joy in governing during these huge downturns when you need to cut and deliver a lot of misery. I remember covering Governor Chris Gregoire during the financial crisis. It was agonizing -- wiping out so many programs, hurting so many people. She even she would famously say, as she presented her spending plans, quote, “I hate my budget.” I have to wonder whether the top tier GOP figures who took a pass on this year's governor's race before the virus hit like Rob McKenna, like Dave Reichert, whether they're feeling like they actually dodged the bullet.

If Inslee wins but then leaves for a job in a Joe Biden administration, how would that factor into the lieutenant governor's race?

Joni Balter: Two ifs have to happen The first is if Joe Biden becomes president. The second is if Inslee is offered a high-level cabinet position, say on climate. If those two things happen and Inslee leaves early the lieutenant governor automatically moves up to governor until the next general election. And that makes the lieutenant governor's race a lot more exciting this year. There are a couple of state senators in that race, but the front runner has to be Congressman Denny Heck, who has a long and an impressive history in state government, but here's the fun twist. I spoke to Heck, and he says he will not run for governor against (state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, King County Executive Dow Constantine or state Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, if they sought to replace Inslee). In other words, he would embrace the governor's post if it fell to him for that period of time until the next general election. He told me he actually wants to be a lieutenant governor, he wants to do that job.

Douglas: Can I just say what a difference a few months makes? When Heck announced his retirement from Congress in December, he made it pretty clear he was done with politics. He talked about how weary he was with it, demoralized by all the partisanship, frustrated, basically said he was giving it all up to write books and pursue other things. But I guess the chance to maybe be governor at least for a few months without actually running for governor just seemed too enticing for him.

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