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Gregoire: Rossi’s been running all along

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Chris Gregoire said she's not worried about fellow Democrat Patty Murray's chances against here two-time opponent Dino Rossi. But trading a three-term incumbent like Murray for Rossi or any Republican challenger "would be a disaster for the state" by losing so much clout and hard work.

Mary Lane Strow, a spokeswoman for Rossi, replied: "Spoken like a true goverment insider. I would expect nothing less from another career politician."

Asked about the potential matchup between Murray and Rossi at a morning press conference, Gregoire said if asked for advice, she'd urge Murray to compare their records for the last six years. Rossi gave up his state Senate seat in 2004 to run for governor, and has been in business since then, except for his 2008 rematch against her.

"What's he been doing since 2004. Where's he been? Talk about what she's done, talk about what he's done," she said. "What has he done? He runs on 'I wrote a budget once.'"

Strow countered that Rossi has been in business, "helping to contribute to economic growth" since leaving office.

"While Patty Murray has been sitting in Washington, D.C., spending massive amounts of tax dollars and bringing on huge debt levels...Dino has been working in the private sector," she said, adding that politicians "tend to look down on people who work in the private enterprise."

A poll released Monday shows Murray in a close race with Rossi or any Republican candidate, and with less than half the voters contacted saying they were ready to vote to re-elect her. Incumbents below 50 percent are generally considered vulnerable for re-election.

Gregoire said she thought there were other races around the country, particularly for governor's posts, where the incumbents were in more jeopardy than Murray."I'm not worried for Patty because Patty's never taken anything for granted in a race."

And she defended the opposition research against Rossi underway by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, even though he's not yet officially in the race, as merely "due diligence".

"I don't think it's any less fair than him holding...12 candidates at bay. What has been the issue that has taken him so long to make up  his mind," she said.

Countered Strow: "That's lawyer speak for dumpster diving. I'm sure Christine Gregoire is deeply concerned about the other Republicans in the U.S. Senate race."

Rossi said as recently as Friday that he's waiting for all members of his immediate family to be on board with a run, and trying to make sure he can put together all the pieces of a campaign. But he also told the Mainstream Republican Conference that his wife is "100 percent" behind him if he decides to run -- a comment that some of the political activists in the room took as a sign he'd enter the race.

"I think he's been running all along," Gregoire said.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.