Monitor Breakfast with Democratic governors

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast with Govs. Janet Napolitano, Bill Richardson, Gary Locke, Tom Vilsack, and Ed Rendell.

The Monitor hosted five Democratic governors at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

On whether President Bush can be beaten in 2004:

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano: "The farther west you get, the farther removed some of the things the president is working on seem to be to the concerns of average working people. The war on terrorism is something everybody believes in and everybody supports, but it also seems awfully distant from the fact that we have people out of work, we have school districts in trouble, and those sorts of things. What makes me think the president can be beat? I would simply say look what happened to his father."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: "I believe the only way a strong message can be developed is if the Democratic presidential candidate talks about economic growth. It can't be a negative, whining message. It has to be a message of

hope and opportunity, it has to involve investing in infrastructure and capital formation...it has to be a well-defined economic message. Whatever candidate forges that message on our side, I think could beat the president."

On the lack of a consistent Democratic message:

Iowa Gov. Thomas Vilsack: "It is pretty difficult to pierce through the Iraq international situation but when you talk to ordinary folks in my state, there is less talk about Iraq and more talk about whether I am going to have my job, whether I am going to be able to keep my job, whether I am going to get a job, whether my child's education is what it needs to be, whether I am

going to be able to afford the cost of nursing home care. I think there is a better coordination of that message."

On the response to the Bush plan to reform Medicaid:

Washington Gov. Gary Locke: "The governors are very interested in working with the

administration and the Congress to overhaul Medicaid, provide more flexibility, and to really work on a true prescription drug coverage for seniors. We haven't seen any details and so I don't know how any governor can just jump on board without seeing the details of it. But more importantly I think the governors, Democrats and Republicans, want to be a very pivotal force in helping write the legislation to make sure that the concerns of the governors are, in fact, addressed. We simply don't want to respond to the administration's proposal, we want to actually help write a proposal that we think serves the needs of the states...."

On state reaction to the president's 'Leave No Child Behind' education
program:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: "I don't think it will be a problem for the president [in the 2004

election]... But the problem is that for the longest time people didn't seem to have any clear answers about education. But I think now we are developing clear answers. We know the things that work. ...The problem is Washington always looks for solutions on the cheap. And that is not to say the president is wrong about accountability and testing. He is right. That is one part of this. But they are always looking for solutions on the cheap. Does throwing money at school districts work? No. Does giving money to targeted programs that we know have an effect, does that work? Absolutely."

On offering aid to Turkey in return for permission for the US to base military forces there:

Governor Locke: "I think it is a very dangerous precedent and if Turkey, then who is next and how much? ...That has always been part of diplomatic efforts and foreign aide policy and developing coalitions. But it is a very dangerous slippery slope, especially when you are trying to mount a coalition...If your cause is right, and I believe our cause is right, than others should be joining in."

Governor biographies

Arizona's peripatetic Gov. Janet Napolitano was born in New York, grew up in Philadelphia and then in New Mexico, attended college in California, and law school in Virginia. Apparently she was working on putting together an electoral majority at an early age. She was elected governor of Arizona last November after serving as the state's attorney general and as US attorney for Arizona.

Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack, vice chairman of the Democratic Governor Association, was born in Pennsylvania, orphaned at birth, and adopted at age 1. After attending college and getting a law degree, he was elected mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in 1987. He was elected to the state senate five years later, and in 1998 became Iowa's first Democratic governor in more than 30 years.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson served for 15 years in the House of Representatives. He has served as US ambassador to the United Nations and as Secretary of Energy. He has been nominated 4 times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic efforts.

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell started his elective career at age 33, winning the post of district attorney for Philadelphia. He served as that city's mayor from 1992 through 1999, and was general chair of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 election.

Washington Governor Gary Locke is chair of the Democratic Governors Association. He took office in 1996, becoming the first Chinese American governor in US history. Though he grew up in a public housing project, he went on to graduate from Yale and Boston University and become chief executive of King County. He loves the press - or at least one member thereof, his wife Mona, a former TV reporter.

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