Gregoire knows what's up when it comes to Hanford

Gov. Chris Gregoire decision not to seek re-election will be popular in the Mid-Columbia.

Generally speaking, voters on this side of the state have not been very supportive. If it had been up to them, Gregoire wouldn't have served nearly as long as she has.

In 2004, Gregoire and Dino Rossi finished in a statistical tie statewide in the governor's race, but almost 70 percent of the voters from Benton and Franklin counties went with Rossi. The 2008 election went nearly the same way.

Her lack of enthusiasm for courting Areva in 2008 still rankles in the Mid-Columbia, despite her upcoming trade mission to Europe that includes a stop in France.

This editorial board was among the loudest critics of the governor's handling of Areva when the international nuclear giant was considering Richland for a major expansion of its U.S. facilities.

The new $2 billion plant went to Idaho. Areva had only warm things to say about Gregoire at the end of the process, but the governor's perceived coolness toward the proposed plant weighed heavily in our decision to recommended voters support her opponent in 2008.

But for the most part, the governor has been a friend to the Mid-Columbia on several fronts. That support has remained largely consistent over the years, despite the absence of any political benefit.

For example, she was a major supporter of our community's push to convert Washington State University Tri-Cities to a four-year university.

She's been an advocate for the Mid-Columbia's biotechnology initiative, which has positioned WSU Tri-Cities and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to be leaders in this emerging industry.

Similarly, Gregoire lent critical support to the Tri-Cities Research District.

On the national scene, Gregoire tackled the tobacco industry and won while she was the state attorney general.

But at the top of our appreciation list for Gregoire is her handling of Hanford issues.

She was one of the original authors of the Tri-Party Agreement. No individual has done more to hold the federal government accountable for cleanup efforts.

As director of the state Department of Ecology, then as state attorney general and finally as governor, she has been in a position to put her Hanford knowledge to use for the benefit of the Tri-Cities for more than 20 years.

In her retirement, that knowledge -- and influence -- could be lost.

We don't want to see that happen.

She hasn't indicated whether she will be retiring from political life or switching gears, but whatever her plans are, we hope they include a continued interest in Hanford's future.

That would benefit not only the Tri-Cities, but also the nation.