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Eye On Olympia

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 2008, 6:51 P.M.

Democratic Party ad draws ire of Italian-American group…

In a new twist on the governor's race, a decades-old Seattle Italian-American club on Wednesday blasted the state Democratic Party for using the Sopranos TV theme song as the backdrop to a recent video critical of Republican Dino Rossi.

The group was unhappy -- really unhappy -- with what it views as an attempt to link Rossi's Italian-American heritage to mobsters. When I called him, Italian Club of Seattle president Brian DiJulio likened the ad to running an image of "Little Black Sambo" in a campaign ad about an African-American candidate.

"Italian Americans are the only ones who seem to be discriminated against and it's seen as OK," he said. "There's just right and there's wrong and it's time for Italian-Americans to say we're not mobsters. We're governors and lawyers and doctors and priests."

"This is clearly a smear tactic on their part," he said. DiJulio said he doesn't consider himself either a Republican or Democrat.

The group is calling for the video to be yanked from the Web, for a public apology from the party (and Gov. Chris Gregoire) and for the resignation of state party chairman Dwight Pelz.

The state GOP echoed much of that, saying that:

“Gov. Gregoire’s political operatives have engaged in bigotry with this web video in order to shift the focus away from the ethical clouds surrounding Gregoire."

That's from Luke Esser, state Republican Party chairman, who pronounced the sound track offensive, shameful, unacceptable, insulting and outrageous.

"What’s next? Dino is also part Tlingit, Alaskan Native. Are they going to attack him for that, too?"

Esser asked.

A spokesman for Gregoire's campaign referred me to the state Democratic Party, which this evening issued an apology -- sort of -- and said it will replace the ad's audio track.

"Our video is in no way meant to allege or imply that Republican Dino Rossi or his extremist, right-wing developer allies have ties to the mafia or organized crime,"

state party spokesman Kelly Steele wrote in an e-mail. He said it's a catchy song that "jibed stylistically" with the ad's message.

"That being said, we'd like to apologize to Rossi's friend Mr. DiJulio, his organization, and anyone else we may have inadvertently offended,"

Steele wrote. The video will remain the same, he said, just with a different song.

Steele also noted that Rossi himself has repeatedly referenced The Sopranos while campaigning. He cited a Rossi speech yesterday on Mercer Island, in which Rossi criticized the state's high gas, alcohol and liquor taxes.

"If we raised them any more," Rossi reportedly told the crowd, "Tony Soprano would want to get some of that action."

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