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Eye On Olympia

A Battle in Seattle, minus the tear gas…

Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi were apparently holding their fire for Seattle.

Tuesday night’s debate in Yakima was surprisingly mild-mannered, with few direct clashes. (Maybe it was the environment — the Yakima Herald-Republic held the event inside the city’s ornate Capitol Theater.)

That changed Wednesday night, however, when the two candidates traded jabs and barbs before a Seattle crowd — and TV viewers across the state.

Among the lines: “It’s item after item after item with mismanagement in that office,” Rossi said of Gregoire’s 12-year stint as attorney general. “If you can’t manage an office with 1,000 people, how are you going to manage a state?”

“Dino, I have to say either you don’t understand how the system works or you’re intentionally misleading the public,” Gregoire said, after Rossi said the state had paid out more in lawsuit settlements during her tenure as AG than in the rest of state history. (Gregoire’s point: that individual state agencies pay those bills, not her office. Rossi’s point: she’s the state’s lawyer, and should be doing better defending her client. But he missed a chance to get in the obvious rejoinder: that it’s taxpayers who end up paying, regardless of which state agency cuts the check.)

Gregoire also noted that she’d raised $4.5 billion for the state as lead negotiator on the tobacco settlement, an amount that she said far eclipses what the state has paid out during her watch as AG.

The next debate is Sunday. In Seattle.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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