This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Dino Rossi’s entry into Washington’s U.S. Senate race bodes well – for voters, if not his party.
Rossi may have but a slim chance of beating Sen. Patty Murray, but he’s the only Republican in the hunt with any chance of besting Murray.
Neither of the other Republican frontrunners, former NFL player Clint Didier and state Sen. Don Benton, are much of a threat to a three-term incumbent with a $6 million war chest. Rossi, with his statewide name recognition and electoral history, will force Murray to defend her record.
Rossi’s showing will depend partly on how the two-time gubernatorial candidate makes the transition from state politician to national hopeful.
During his runs against Gov. Chris Gregoire, the former state lawmaker was able to deflect some questions by answering that they were outside the purview of a governor. Now Rossi will have to articulate nuanced positions on a host of new federal and social issues – a tall order for any candidate, but especially one getting such a late start.
Like any challenger, Rossi will also have to make the case that he can take care of Washington interests. Murray has been a champion of veterans and Hanford cleanup, among other state and regional priorities. A freshman senator wouldn’t wield nearly as much influence.
Rossi said Thursday he would eschew all earmarks. That’s a popular sentiment, to be sure, but not all earmarks are pork. Rossi will have to explain how he would otherwise ensure worthwhile projects get the money due them.
He could get some assistance from the national political stage. Murray’s clout is largely a function of her membership in the majority party. Should a Republican tide sweep the November elections – and Rossi help put the Republicans over the top in the Senate as some political observers speculate he could – then the newest senator from Washington could exert pull beyond his years.
Rossi’s credentials as a fiscal conservative will no doubt earn him points with voters in an era of increasing frustration over out-of-control federal deficits. If that’s enough for a state that polled 58 percent for President Obama two years ago to now oust a popular Democratic senator, the Democrats are indeed in for a thumpin’.
One thing’s for sure: Democrats now have to pay attention to Washington state. That’s never a bad thing.
A lively competition for elected office always affords voters better opportunities to evaluate the candidates. A lively competition with potential national political implications ensures that this state’s issues will get the billing they deserve.