It didn't help Spellman's campaign that it originally focused on Jim McDermott as the likely Democratic opponent, only to be surprised by Gardner defeating McDermott in the primary election.
Four years later, Gardner won re-election in a landslide against a state lawmaker, Bob Williams of Longview.
Gardner's last campaign was not for any office.
He had learned he had Parkinson's soon after leaving the governor's mansion, while living in Switzerland as the U.S. ambassador to what is now the World Trade Organization. Over the next years, he lost control over many of his motor functions, and worried he would lose control of his fate.
Gardner argued patients should have a right to assisted suicide. In 2008, he sponsored the so-called Death with Dignity initiative, modeled after the first law of its kind in Oregon.
It would later be the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary. In the film, "The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner," he described thinking constantly about when he would die. But in 2010, he said: "I don't think about dying any more."
"But," he added, "I always go to the base, that people ought to have the right to choose."
Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure.
In 2011, according to the most recent available data, 103 people obtained medication to end their lives, and at least 70 actually took the lethal dose.
To obtain the medication, patients must be terminally ill with just six months to live. Parkinson's patients don't get such a timetable -- so Gardner wasn't eligible to take advantage of the law.
William Booth Gardner was born Aug. 21, 1936, at Tacoma General Hospital, the scion of two families with a lineage in Washington: the Gardners of Tacoma and the wealthier Booths of Seattle.
His father Bryson, known as Brick, was an alcoholic who was often cruel to his son, according to Booth Gardner's biographer, John C. Hughes. As his parents' strained marriage fell apart, his mother Evelyn met Norton Clapp. They married when Gardner was 4, soon after Evelyn and Brick's divorce was final.
Gardner would spend most of his childhood living with his father. But his tie to Clapp, heir to a timber-industry fortune and later Weyerhaeuser CEO, was key to his later business and political success.
When Gardner was just 14, and attending Clover Park Junior High in Lakewood before graduating from Seattle's Lakeside School, his mother and sister flew to a flower show in Santa Barbara, Calif, where his mother was to receive a prize for an orchid. Their twin-engine airplane crashed in the Santa Ynez Mountains, killing both.
"That event had a greater effect on me than anything else in my life, before or after," Gardner told Hughes. "I felt alone in the world and that I was somehow responsible for all of this."
It also left him with an inheritance that made him a millionaire. And it led Clapp to promise his help if Gardner ever got in trouble, according to his biographer.
Clapp would eventually hire Gardner to run a company and help him on his campaigns, even though Clapp was a Republican at odds with some of Gardner's politics.
"That had the effect of taking a big anchor and moving it out deeper," Gardner told Hughes. "I knew I could go in the deep water now because I had a way out. I had a savior. And that's when I started really thinking big."
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