Rossi announces candidacy for Washington seat

Hopeful likely to face Murray

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Republican Dino Rossi officially announced his candidacy Wednesday for the U.S. Senate seat from Washington, giving Republicans a strong candidate in a state where an upset would put them on course to pull off their goal of taking the Senate back from the Democrats.

Mr. Rossi, 50 and a former gubernatorial candidate, ended months of speculation about his plans and has the backing of the national party. He becomes the Republicans’ presumptive favorite in their bid to unseat Democrat Sen. Patty Murray, 59, in the November election.

An average of recent polls by the website Real Clear Politics shows Mrs. Murray, a three-term incumbent and member of the Senate Democratic leadership, ahead of Mr. Rossi by just three percentage points. None of the polls took their whole samples within the past three weeks, and voters were responding to then-hypothetical scenarios.

Mr. Rossi made his announcement in a five-minute online video in which he asks voters whether they are angry and frustrated over such issues as unemployment, declining home values, Wall Street bailouts and the federal budget deficit.

“If, like me, you answer yes to these questions, I hope you’ll join me in a great campaign to help put things right,” he said.

Mr. Rossi, a former state senator, has twice run for Washington governor, losing in 2004 to Christine Gregoire by the smallest percentage margin in the history of U.S. gubernatorial races - 129 votes in a state where more than 2.8 million ballots were cast.

He joins an already crowded, unofficial field of 16 Republican candidates that includes state Sen. Don Benton and ex-NFL tight end Clint Didier, who was recently endorsed by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Both candidates said they will remain in the race and think they can win the seat.

“I welcome Mr. Rossi into the race,” said Mr. Benton, 53. “But I’m in this to win. … He’s a great friend. I supported him in his gubernatorial races, and I’ll support him in his next one.”

Mr. Benton also said he has a solid, top-to-bottom campaign - from the Shawmut Group that helped Republican Scott Brown win a Massachusetts Senate seat to “the best sign crew in the country.”

Mr. Didier, 51, said he will stay in the primary so that voters can decide the future.

“That’s what the primaries are for: to give people a clear-cut direction on how they want to proceed,” he said. “I take this as a challenge to defeat the GOP machine.”

The campaign for Mr. Didier - an alfalfa farmer and Tea Party supporter - recently took a hit when the Seattle Times reported he accepted farm subsidies that he has vowed to eliminate.

His claim to being the race’s true outsider candidate is now being challenged by Mr. Rossi, who on the video declares himself an anti-establishment candidate, despite the Washington support.

Candidates have until June 7 to officially enter the race. Washington’s open primary, which is Aug. 17, puts all candidates on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will face each other for the seat in November.

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