Washington State attorney general Rob McKenna has announced he will seek the governor's office in 2012, but observers say he will have to distance himself from his previous antigay stances to compete in the generally progressive state.
McKenna announced his candidacy Wednesday, becoming the first Republican to enter the race. Current governor Chris Gregoire, a gay-friendly Democrat, is not expected to run for a third term, SeattlePI.com reports.
In making his announcement, McKenna focused on education and economic issues, saying he wants to increase state support of education while trimming other spending by reducing the state workforce and making government more efficient. But he has a record of "anti-gay politicking," notes SeattlePI.com blogger Joe Mirabella.
"McKenna told reporters in 2004 that marriage equality for gays and lesbians could result in polygamy and incest," Mirabella writes. "He said, 'It threatens to destroy all standards we apply to the right of marriage.'"
In 2010, McKenna "endorsed the state's most homophobic candidates possible," including failed congressional candidate John Koster, who supports amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, Mirabella adds.
In Washington, which does not have marriage equality but offers a strong, voter-approved form of domestic partnerships to gay couples, "the LGBT and allied vote is large enough to swing the election one way or another," Mirabella reports. Organized labor also opposes McKenna, and Democrats say he is far too conservative for the state.
"It will be interesting to see how McKenna tries to slime his way out of his anti-gay past," Mirabella writes. "Since Washington State is one of the most supportive states in the country, and the only state to ever vote to expand the rights of gay and lesbian couples at the ballot box, Washington State won't want a homophobic governor."