When former Gov. Booth Gardner first came on the state political scene in the early 1980s, he seemed out of place.
Hardened politicians in Olympia saw Gardner as somewhat naive rather than a political leader. It was a mistake to underestimate Gardner’s political acumen.
Gardner took the state by storm in 1984, winning the Democratic nomination for governor in a three-way race and then knocking off Republican John Spellman, the sitting governor. Gardner served for two terms and proved to be highly effective and very popular.
He championed education, health care, social services and the environment using his charm and a pragmatic approach to make gains.
It should be noted, particularly in this part of the state, that Gardner worked well with Sen. Jeannette Hayner, R-Walla Walla, who led the Senate during his tenure.
Hayner and House Speaker Joe King, D-Vancouver, were known at the time as the “best of enemies” with a knack for working things out. Their open-and-honest styles meshed well with Gardner’s collaborative approach
“They both recognize that if they want to accomplish anything they have to work together,” Gardner said of Hayner and King. So, too, did Gardner.
Gardner didn’t come from the same hard-charging, in-your-face mold of many political leaders, but he was clearly effective.
Gardner set the right tone for Washington state for the 1990s and beyond.