Benton GOP blasts Gregoire over Areva

The Benton County Republican Party is running radio ads criticizing Gov. Chris Gregoire for her role in the failed recruitment of the Areva uranium enrichment plant to the Tri-Cities.

In May, the French company announced that it would build its $2 billion plant in Idaho.

In June, a Herald report chronicled repeated Tri-City requests for Gregoire to become personally involved in the recruitment effort and officials' subsequent frustration as it appeared the opportunity to land the Areva plant was slipping away with only limited involvement by the first-term governor.

Gregoire, who was concerned about the waste the plant would generate, insisted her support for the 400-worker plant was unambiguous.

The governor now is involved in a re-election contest with Republican Dino Rossi, and Benton County Republicans plan to make the Areva plant a campaign issue.

The minute-long radio ad declares "Democrat Christine Gregoire did not show up for the Tri-Cities when we needed her."

Patrick McBurney, chairman of the Benton Republicans, said the party will spend as much as $15,000 on the ad campaign.

"If not now, when are we going to do something of this kind of import?" he asked.

Gregoire campaign spokesman Aaron Toso dismissed the accusations.

"The governor took the Areva process very seriously, as she does with any economic development project," he said in a statement. "Areva sought fairness and professionalism and supportive contact with state agencies, policy, staff, the governor's staff and the governor, and they got it from the very beginning. Areva never asked for financial incentives and were consistently asked if they needed anything, but asked for nothing."

The ad began running Monday on two Tri-City radio stations and there are plans to have it run on three more.

It'll run 100 times before next week's primary -- many if not most of those will come today to coincide with Gregoire's visit to speak to the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce -- and 682 times between the primary and Nov. 4 general election.

"We wanted to continue to reinforce that point," McBurney said of Gregoire's efforts in the Areva recruitment. "This is really inexcusable."