Stateline Story

WORTH NOTING: National Governors Association Edition

  • February 29, 2008
  • By Daniel C. Vock

The nation's governors just wrapped up their annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C. this week. The conclave gave them a chance to discuss weighty matters like climate change and economic stimulus , pontificate about presidential politics and celebrate the National Governors Association's 100 th anniversary with a White House photo.

Serious business aside, there were lighter moments, too.

It didn't take long for Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) to ring in the meeting. At the opening news conference, Bredesen's mobile phone loudly interrupted Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D). Twice. Baldacci was touting the many renewable energy projects hoping to come to his state and noted, without skipping a beat, "they're calling in right now."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), the NGA's chair, gave pause Saturday to dozens of governors at a roundtable discussion. From a lectern at the front of an expansive conference room, Pawlenty respectfully called on a "Governor Favre." Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) eventually got the gridiron reference; before asking his question, Doyle grumbled something about the nerve of Pawlenty, "a Vikings fan."

At a formal White House dinner Sunday night for the governors, President Bush remarked that he had a "unique perspective" of the annual tradition, after participating as Texas governor for six years and as president for eight years. "And next year," he said, according to the Chicago Tribune , "I'll be watching on C-SPAN."

With governors nearly eliminated from the presidential race, political reporters asked countless questions about possible vice-presidential candidates among them. Standing next to a large group of governors at a press conference, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) said he'll wait until after the June 3 Montana primary to decide whom he will support for president. "But," he said, "to my immediate left would be the finalists for vice president, so take a look at this beauty contest."

Schweitzer also bragged about his own famous sidekick, his dog Jag, who even has his own book. "My dog and myself - he's the smart one, he's the good-looking one, he's the one with the good nose… But there's one thing that is true in Montana: The lobbyists don't like either one of us," Schweitzer told Stateline.org .

A bunch of governors banging their heads and beating the drums? It's possible. The lead man would have to be Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who once was referred to by his hometown paper as looking like "some sort of Gaelic guitar hero." Gov. Tim Kaine (D) told O'Malley that, at the next NGA meeting, he would bring his harmonica if O'Malley brought his guitar . O'Malley turned to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and said Spitzer always struck him as a drummer. Spitzer quipped, "I beat a lot of drums, but I have no rhythm." Now, all they're missing is a bass player . How about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R)?

To drum up excitement for the NGA's next meeting in Philadelphia, representatives from Pennsylvania handed out Hershey chocolate, TastyKakes and Pennsylvania Dutch pretzels. For Sunday lunch, they gave away Philly cheese steaks. But not those messy sandwiches with fatty meat and Cheez-Wiz that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) often touts on the stump, including to a bunch of statehouse reporters this summer. These tasty treats were made with quality beef and provolone cheese.

To wrap up the conference, NGA brought along actors playing two historical characters: President Teddy Roosevelt, the former New York governor who convened the NGA for the first time in 1908, represented the past. Ben Franklin represented the future. Because, of course, his hometown of Philadelphia is where the next meeting will be.