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Eye On Olympia

Rossi and GOP…

In a tussle made possible by the new rules for Washington’s “Top Two” primary, the state Democratic Party is claiming that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi is trying to deceive voters by saying he prefers the “GOP” party on the primary ballot, instead of simply saying “Republican” like most candidates.

State Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz is calling on Rossi to change it to “Republican.”

Pelz cites the Wall Street Journal, which in 2002 decided to avoid the abbreviation GOP because it felt some readers might not know that the abbreviation (for “Grand Old Party”) refers to the Republicans. And if Rossi won’t change it, Pelz wants the state’s top elected official — Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed — to change Rossi’s designation to “Republican.”

This seems highly unlikely, seeing as how Reed’s office has repeatedly said that under freedom of political speech, candidates can write almost anything that’s not obscene in the little spot for party preference. One guy, after all, is running as a member of the hitherto-unheard-of “SalmonYoga” party.

The Democrats list a long number of past instances in which Rossi referred to himself as a Republican: Public Disclosure Commission filings, the 2004 voter’s pamphlet, newsletters when he was a state senator, etc.

Rossi apparently has no intention of changing, judging from a response that I got to that question from his campaign spokeswoman, Jill Strait.

“It’s ridiculous to claim that our campaign all of a sudden decided to start using GOP” she writes in an e-mail. “Since 2004, all of our TV ads, bumper stickers and signs have all said `Rossi for Governor, GOP.’ We have put millions of dollars into `Rossi for Governor, GOP’ and it just made sense to keep using it. No one has ever complainted that by doing so we were denying our affiliation with the Republican Party.”

As evidence, Strait included this video clip of excerpts of Rossi’s 2004 ads, in which she notes the phrase “Rossi for Governor, GOP” appeared repeatedly.

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

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