Honoring Booth Gardner | Don Brunell

The tributes to former Gov. Booth Gardner, who died March 15 at the age of 76, remind us of a better time. Throughout his political career, Booth was known for his respectful demeanor, good humor and dedication to consensus.

The tributes to former Gov. Booth Gardner, who died March 15 at the age of 76, remind us of a better time. Throughout his political career, Booth was known for his respectful demeanor, good humor and dedication to consensus.

That is in stark contrast to today’s reality.

Now, partisan rancor is the norm in a high-stakes blood sport where the only goal is political advantage, and people with opposing views are assailed as enemies. This scorched earth mentality has become so pervasive, people assume it’s the nature of politics.

But that’s true only if we continue to allow it.

If the politicians and others who laud Booth Gardner genuinely want to honor him, we can do so by emulating him — by tempering our behavior and that of our colleagues. It is easy to praise a good man; it is much harder to be like him.

I always considered Booth a friend, even though our friendship got off to a rough start.

When he ran for governor in 1984, I was working for Crown Zellerbach, and we supported Gov. John Spellman (R) for re-election. When Booth won, he could have given us the cold shoulder. That didn’t happen. In fact, it was just the opposite. For Booth, the election was over, and it was time to govern. His first priority was always to do what was right. 

That commitment would be sorely tested in his first term.

In 1986, my first year at the Association of Washington Business, the Legislature passed a hotly debated and very divisive lawsuit reform bill. The measure was intended to curb lawsuit abuse to reduce the cost of liability insurance. It was supported by a coalition of business owners, local governments, schools, hospitals, doctors and insurance carriers. But it was vigorously opposed by trial lawyers — one of the Democratic Party’s most powerful constituencies. Key Democratic legislative leaders aggressively pressured Booth to veto the bill.

Before making his decision, the governor met with supporters and opponents. When he asked me point blank why he should sign the bill, I said, “Governor, it is the right thing to do. We need to find a way to make liability insurance more affordable and available, and this bill does that!”

After listening to all sides and stewing over the decision for days, he signed the bill, incurring the wrath of many in his party. But his decision wasn’t based on partisanship, it was based on what he thought was best for Washington.

Booth’s quiet demeanor belied a strength of character that served him throughout his life.

In 1995, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive and debilitating neurological disorder marked by tremors and loss of coordination. In true form, he worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the disease, served as the first chair of the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation and helped establish the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center in Kirkland.

In 2005, Booth and I hit the road for a series of editorial boards in support of federal class action lawsuit reform. Even though he was beginning to feel the effects of Parkinson’s, I was amazed at his ability to captivate people with his arguments, logic and goodwill.

With all the hard work, we managed to have fun. We both loved hamburgers, and Booth knew where the best hamburger places were — we tried them all. Looking back, I realize that this trip was like his swan song, a barnstorming tour of his beloved state.

My fondest memories are of Booth’s humility and humor. The first time he called our house after becoming governor, one of our young children answered the phone and yelled, “Dad, there’s some guy named BOOF who wants to talk to you!” We had lots of laughs over that one. Even though Parkinson’s ultimately took Booth’s life, it can never erase his legacy as governor or the profound effect he had on those who knew him.

If we truly want to honor Booth Gardner, we can be more respectful to those we disagree with and remember that our goal should be to work together to get things done.

More in Business

Seattle’s misstep highlights need for new approach

Last week, Seattle’s City Council did an “about face” revoking the onerous… Continue reading

Washington’s expensive culvert court case

Too much money is spent in court where it should go to increasing the salmon population

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands

Gary Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and they began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Sinise often raised the money to pay the band and fund its travel.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Don Brunell

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland.

Skilled trade jobs go unfilled in our robust economy

Known as blue collar jobs, they routinely pay $45,000 to $65,000 a year or more.

Streamlining regulations helps Americans compete

The cost of regulations is a key American competitiveness issue. It is a major reason our companies re-locate to other countries and our manufacturers and farmers have difficulties competing internationally.

Water pressure mounting in West as population spikes

What is happening in California with water allocation disputes is a harbinger of what is to come in our state as well.

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.