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Politics Northwest

Outgoing Attorney General Rob McKenna, who joined an unsuccessful lawsuit against President Obama’s health-care overhaul, appeared to show support for the law during Gov. Chris Gregoire’s farewell speech Tuesday.

McKenna’s gesture was small — he stood along with a group of mostly Democrats to applaud a reference to the law, while most other Republicans stayed seated and silent.

Dan Sytman, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said later that McKenna’s applause “was not a statement of one kind or another.”

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But the move did not go unnoticed by reporters and others eager for intrigue in a mostly uneventful State of the State address.

McKenna stood after Gregoire noted Washington was among the first states to implement Obama’s law. She then referenced an optional Medicaid expansion in the law, urging lawmakers to accept the expansion because “every Washingtonian deserves an open door to the doctor when they need one.”

The Legislature is deciding whether to take the expansion, which the federal government would initially fund but could cost the state later. Democrats like the idea while Republicans generally do not.

During an unsuccessful run for governor last year, McKenna did not say whether he supports the expansion.

He said he joined the lawsuit because of a provision of Obama’s law that requires everyone to buy health insurance.

In another notable moment Tuesday, McKenna sat with other Republicans as Democrats cheered a reference from Gregoire about the state’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage.

Before Gregoire spoke, McKenna was one of three departing state officials to give farewell talks of their own.

“It has been an extraordinary journey,” McKenna said. “Thank you all very much.”

— Brian M. Rosenthal

Candidate says he’ll replace Diaz

Seattle City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tim Burgess says he’ll replace Police Chief John Diaz if he’s elected mayor.

In a campaign release, Burgess criticized Mayor Mike McGinn and the chief for “being too slow in implementing new strategies for preventing crime, and too slow in embracing the changes sought by the Department of Justice” to address issues of excessive force and evidence of biased policing.

“We must restore trust by following a clear reform plan and replacing top leadership in the department,” said Burgess, himself a former Seattle police officer and detective.

Burgess included the call for a new chief in a release outlining other plans he has to improve public safety and the department, including concentrating officers in areas where crime occurs.

Responding to Burgess’ comments, John Wyble, campaign consultant for Re-Elect Mike McGinn For Mayor, said: “The Tim Burgess press release today is not about having a thoughtful discussion. It was timed to score cheap political points. We need to work together on reform not play politics with public safety.”

— Mike Carter

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