Chris Gregoire bounded to the state's political stage in 1992 by winning an open seat for attorney general in her first bid for public office. She defeated a popular prosecutor, John Ladenburg of Pierce County, for the Democratic nomination, and the state's senior prosecutor and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Norm Maleng in the general.
She was re-elected in 1996 and 2000 by wide margins. She declined entreaties to run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 against Republican incumbent Slade Gorton, who had hired her when he was attorney general.
But by the time her longtime ally Gov. Gary Locke announced in the summer of 2003 that he wouldn't run for re-election in 2004, she jumped into the race. She easily won the Democratic nomination in September, 2004, defeating King County Executive Ron Sims 67 percent to 28 percent, with four others far back.