ino Rossi’s long expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race did not prompt a mass exodus by other Republican candidates Wednesday. Several said they welcomed the competition of the former state senator who has been weighing the race for months.
Rossi, who announced his candidacy on the Internet early Wednesday morning after months of weighing his options, has statewide name recognition from two runs for governor and enters the race with the support of top Senate Republicans. But at least five active GOP candidates said they’ll stick in the race.
That includes state Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver, who has amassed a list of endorsements from GOP office holders, and former NFL player and Connell farmer Clint Didier who has the support of Sarah Palin.
Voters will now have a choice between a “GOP established candidate or a citizen statesman who is a part of the grass roots movement," Didier said in a press release after Rossi’s 7 a.m. announcement was posted on the Internet.
Benton called Rossi a friend whom he will enjoy debating, while taking a shot at Rossi’s Washington, D.C., establishment backing: “We can no longer look to the establishment to turn our economy and our country around. The people want an independent voice that will take on both parties and stand up for common sense and fiscal responsibility.”
Sean Salazar, a Seattle chiropractor who specializes in sports injuries, offered to drop out months ago and support Rossi if the former gubernatorial candidate would get in the race then, spokeswoman Kandy Schendel said, but Rossi took too long to decide. “He’s not going anywhere. We’ve put so much work into this campaign, the volunteers are saying ‘You better not jump the race.’”
Craig Williams, a PacifiCorp energy trader and real estate broker from Vancouver, said he considers Rossi and all the other GOP candidates friends and won’t run against them. “Our focus is Patty Murray.” He said while Rossi and others court the far right, he’ll seek support from a broader spectrum of Republicans, independents and Democrats in the Top Two primary.
“It’s really not a primary, it’s two general elections in a row,” Williams said.
Paul Akers, a Bellingham businessman, is staying in the race, a spokesman said. He released a statement saying his expertise in “empowering people and eliminating wasteful spending” was what the nation needed.
Skip Mercer, a Seattle physicist and professor at the University of Washington, will likely stay in the race but may run as an independent, his wife Lisa Mercer said. Skip Mercer is on a ship in the Philippine Sea doing research and may not even know that Rossi is formally in the race, she said.
Mercer’s campaign website has a picture of him with Rossi taken months ago. Whether he’ll remove the photo is “a decision he has yet to make,” she said
Only one candidate in the race Tuesday said he was getting out because Rossi was got in. Ed Torres of Orting, a general superintendent for a plumbing firm, said he was throwing his support to Rossi.
Another, Art Coday, a Shoreline physician, "is still in a decision-making process," a spokesman said.