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Keeping Up With The Gregoires: A Family Of Women In Politics

Courtney Gregoire, left, and her mom, former Gov. Chris Gregoire, discussed what it's like to be women in politics.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery
Courtney Gregoire, left, and her mom, former Gov. Chris Gregoire, discussed what it's like to be women in politics.

Chris Gregoire, former governor of Washington, almost didn’t run for office. She had two kids, she reasoned. She should stay home with them. 

It was her daughter, Courtney Gregoire, now an elected official herself, who challenged her mom. The Gregoires recently discussed being women in politics at KUOW.

Chris Gregoire: “I remember thinking to myself, after talking it over with Dad, the best thing I could do for you girls would be to just stay home. That it wasn’t right for me. That politics was too ugly. That it would be too time-consuming.

“As you recall, I came home and said, ‘After talking it over with your father, I’m not going to run for attorney general for you.’

“And you abruptly left the table, went up and slammed the door to your bedroom. To which I thought, ‘What is wrong with her? I just did this major sacrifice.’”

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Courtney Gregoire: "I mean, I'm a 13-year-old girl, so yeah. There are a lot of things that could be wrong."

Chris Gregoire: “I knocked on the door and asked you, ‘What's the problem?’ And your statement to me was, ‘You have always said there's nothing I can't do. There's no glass ceiling for me. And now, Mom, you're saying, 'If I happen to have two daughters, I can't run for office.’

“To which I said, ‘Let me think about this.’ I talked it over with Dad again and turned around and said to both of you, ‘For you, I'm going to run for attorney general.’ And so you actually are responsible for starting my political career.”

Courtney Gregoire: “You know, Mom, it's probably one of the clearest memories I have of my childhood. 

“It just was a fallacy to me. I couldn't understand where this was coming from, because wow, what an opportunity, why wouldn’t you do this?

“What ran through my head was, ‘My mom has told me over and over again, ‘I have lived my life to ensure that you as a daughter – and not a son – have equal opportunity. You want to be a lawyer, you want to be a doctor; it doesn't matter. You've got all the opportunities in the world.’

“I ran through my head going, ‘But I'm going to bear the children, because I want to have kids. And when I bring kids into the world – that equation is going to change for what I should do?”

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Chris Gregoire: “What was it like for you to work in politics?”

Courtney Gregoire: “My approach to politics is that you've got to build the relationships to get things done. But I have to admit on the campaign trail, the challenges I ran into were from people of our own sex, women asking me, when I've got a young baby at home, how I thought I was going to be a good mom if I took this position on.

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“Man, did that sting and make you question, 'Why people would think that? Because in my view, by running for office and putting myself out there and showing what I want in life, I am the best role model I could be for my little kids.”

Chris Gregoire: “And I assume because the criticism or questioning came from women, it was particularly hard."

Courtney Gregoire: “Sometimes it came from what they thought was a good place. ‘You’re a brand new mom. You don't yet know all the challenges you'll face. But man. You’ve got enough reasons to question if you want to be in the political realm. It doesn't help for folks to pose those questions."

Chris Gregoire: “So, Court. You’ve got two amazing daughters. (I’m babysitter in chief on Fridays with Dad.) If your daughter – either one of them, Alexa or Audrey – should decide that one day they want to get involved in politics, what would you say to them?”

Courtney Gregoire: “Oof. This does feel differently when they’re your own daughters. If one or both of my girls said they wanted to enter politics, the first words would be, ‘I’m proud of you. I’m glad you’re stepping up to the plate. Now here are a couple words of caution: Keep your sense of humor. Realize this is about what you want to give back and keep your value system at the end of the day.”

Chris Gregoire: “Good.”

This is a partial and edited transcript of a segment that aired on KUOW's The Record. Chris Gregoire was Washington state governor from 2005 to 2013. Her daughter Courtney Gregoire is a commissioner for the Port of Seattle.