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GOP Senate field still wide


Only one Murray challenger withdraws because of Rossi run

Dino 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 competition with the former state senator who has been weighing the race for months.

Rossi, who announced his candidacy on the Internet early Wednesday, 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 was endorsed recently by 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 news release after Rossi’s 7 a.m. announcement was posted online.

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, offered to drop out months ago and support Rossi, spokeswoman Kandy Schendel said, but Rossi took too long to decide. Salazar is building a coalition among voters whom Rossi and some other Republicans ignore, such as Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics, she said. “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 even though they’re competing for the same seat. “Our focus is Patty Murray,” he said. While Rossi and others court the far right, Williams said he’ll seek support from a broader spectrum of Republicans, independents and Democrats in the top-two primary on Aug. 17.

“It’s really not a primary; it’s two general elections in a row,” Williams said.

Skip Mercer, a Seattle physicist and professor at the University of Washington, likely will stay in the race but may run as an independent, said his wife, Lisa Mercer. Skip Mercer is on a ship in the Philippine Sea doing research and may not even know that Rossi is in the race, she said. He’s due back Monday.

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.

Only one candidate who was in the race Tuesday said he was getting out because Rossi got in. Ed Torres, of Orting, a general superintendent for a plumbing firm, said he’ll support Rossi.

Another, Art Coday, a Shoreline physician, is “still in a decision-making process,” a spokesman said.

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