- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Republican Dino Rossi, the almost-governor of Washington state, was in the nation’s capital this week seeking contributions from the party faithful.

At a Tuesday dinner attended by major Republican donors, his name didn’t ring a bell until he told them that he is the man seeking to overturn November’s disputed gubernatorial election of Christine Gregoire, a Democrat.

“‘Oh, you’re the one,’ they said, grabbing my hand and patting my back,” a smiling Mr. Rossi told reporters yesterday at the Republican Governors Association (RGA) headquarters.

So far, he said, the RGA, the Republican National Committee and the state GOP have contributed about $2 million to his legal fight to get the courts to nullify the contested recount results — widely reported as the closest election for governor in U.S. history — and have a new election this fall.

Tanned, telegenic and looking younger than his 45 years, Mr. Rossi, a real-estate investor and former chairman of his state Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, says he is no quitter, noting that he had won the original count by 261 votes and a machine recount by 42 votes but lost a subsequent manual recount by 129 votes.

“And new, uncounted ballots show up practically every day,” he said.

Mr. Rossi did not say how much he gathered in contributions while in town. He also turned aside questions of whether he would seek the Republican nomination for Senate next year — to challenge Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat elected in 2000 by a razor-thin margin — if his extended gubernatorial contest doesn’t pan out.

“I don’t need a political career,” he said. “I was happy before I got into politics, and I will be happy afterward.”

RNC political director Michael DuHaime has mailed a pitch to donors, telling them, “Dino Rossi is fighting, and voters of good conscience from across this country should stand with him.”

Mr. Rossi said he is sure that a state court — in a civil trial scheduled to start Monday — will decide his way. Either way, an appeal will go directly to the state Supreme Court, said Mark Braden, Rossi campaign counsel, and Charlie Spies, RGA general counsel.

If the court voids the election results, Mrs. Gregoire would have to step down, Democrat Brad Owen, the lieutenant governor, would become acting governor, and both parties would hold primary elections followed by a general election in November.

If the court decides that Mr. Rossi won the 2004 election, he would become governor but has promised to resign and face a new election this fall.

The Rossi campaign has submitted evidence to the court of more than 1,053 illegal votes, including 879 from felons and 53 from dead persons. Mr. Rossi yesterday repeated his accusations that in the Democratic stronghold of King County, the number of ballots cast exceeded the number of voters.

Mr. Rossi also cited polling showing that a majority of Washington state voters think that he was the election winner and that he would win a revote.

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