Gregoire Tries to Move on After Wash. Election

Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire (search) doesn't want to dwell on the months of uncertainty that overshadowed her victory to the state's highest office.

After a roller coaster election that ended after three vote counts, a tiny margin of victory and a two-week court challenge, Gregoire said she never considered herself a governor in limbo. And now that the cloud has lifted, it's business as usual.

"You're not going to see me govern any differently," she told The Associated Press during an interview Wednesday at the Capitol. "I wasn't cautious. I wasn't anything other than myself. You're going to see more of the same."

In her first full-scale interview since a judge dismissed Republican claims of fraud and other misdeeds in last fall's election, Gregoire acknowledged that the months of attacks on her legitimacy had weighed on her.

"Of course, no matter how much I was focused on being governor, it was there at the forefront every day — on the front page, above the fold, in every newspaper," she said. "It was difficult for the family, there's no question about that ... and it was hard on the state."

But Gregoire said she tried to push it out of her mind — instead focusing heavily on the legislative session and shaping her new administration. "My attitude was: As long as I am here, I'm going to govern and I'm going to do everything I can to do right by the state of Washington," she said.

Now that her peripheral vision is clear of the election challenge, the former three-term attorney general said she's not looking back.

Gregoire, the state's second female governor, won by the tiniest of margins — just 129 votes after a third count, a hand count paid for by state Democrats.

On June 6, a judge refused to nullify Gregoire's narrow victory, denying Republicans' claims that election errors, illegal voters and fraud stole the election from GOP candidate Dino Rossi (search), who won the first two tallies.

Gregoire knows that many still have raw feelings about the drawn-out drama.

"To those people who feel like they do, I respect that, I understand their feelings," she said. "But for the good of the state, we need to move forward."

But state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance (search) said Gregoire can't wish the bad feelings away.

"She never acknowledged that anything was wrong. She just stomped her foot and said 'I won, I won," he said. "She's not a legitimately elected governor in the eyes of most people."

Gregoire proposed a $200 million tax package that included increased taxes on cigarettes and a new state estate tax, arguing it was necessary to fund education and transportation. She ultimately signed off on a tax package that was more than double that.

"I made some very difficult decisions during those five months that were politically challenging and I put my head forward and said I'm going to do what I think is the right thing, irrespective of the political consequences of the decisions," she said.

Independent pollster Stuart Elway said he doesn't think the ghost of November 2004 will affect Gregoire if she seeks a second term.

"Four years from now, the election is going to be about her record as governor and what the conditions of the state are," he said. "By 2008, there's a whole lot of water under the bridge."

But Gregoire said she's not thinking about re-election or the prospect of a higher political office.

"I don't want to make decisions based on whether they're going to be good for me in a re-election campaign or not," she said. "If we have a tough issue, I'm ready to take it on."