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and Rossi’s in

Dino Rossi family

Dino Rossi family

In today’s long-awaited announcement that he will run again against Democrat Christine Gregoire for governor, Republican Dino Rossi met the first two bars any challenger of an incumbent – for that is their respective roles now – has to do. But look through what he has to say, and you’re left with the simultaneous impressions of, “is that all there is?” and, “we’re drowning in data, what’s your point?”

What we’re left looking for for is this: The one or two really compelling arguments for why you gotta fire the incumbent and hire this guy. Rossi’s statement was loaded with critiques of the Gregoire Administration, and included a list of his own proposals. But will voters find any of them strong enough to reverse the direction they’ve taken the last four years?

We’re not easily finding the political version of the “killer app,” instead reading through a list of arguments that can too easily bog down in details – stuff that doesn’t seem very likely to grab voters by the throat, rivet them enough to get their attention.

Here are is the Rossi brief against Gregoire, from his descriptive press release on te announcement:

* The governor promised to blow through the bureaucracy and control state spending. She has since added 6,000 new state employees and increased state spending by 33 percent – or $8.2 billion. This sets the state up for a huge budget deficit.
* The governor promised not to raise taxes. Shortly after being certified governor she said, “I never really said ‘no taxes.” She has since raised taxes on gas, many families who have lost loved ones, and in other sectors. The governor also told a newspaper in April that she supports a state income tax.
* The governor pushed through the largest gas tax increase in state history and promised to reduce traffic congestion. Democrat State Auditor Brian Sonntag recently released a performance audit saying her Department of Transportation is not focused on congestion relief. Her agency director said that safety is the number one priority, yet the state’s two most unstable transportation infrastructures – the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 bridge – are as dangerous today as they were when she entered office.
* The governor promised to protect communities from dangerous criminals. Her Department of Corrections then released thousands of felons from prison early – including high-risk sex offenders and people with a history of violence. Many of these early release felons went on to commit more serious crimes.
* The governor promised to take care of children in state foster care. Yet state foster children have been killed, raped and even tortured as she points the finger at her agency director and others. A recent report shows the state does not even have the current contact information for around 1,000 state foster parents.
* The governor promised to establish a stable education funding formula for our K-12 public education system and to demand accountability in schools. Her education funding task force failed to recommend a new, valid funding formula. The state is now being sued. She also delayed the math and science portions of the WASL as graduation requirements, saying the problem is with the curriculum. She’s had three years to improve what is being taught to students. Meanwhile, more students are not prepared for the global economy that awaits them.

In parsing these points, we’d agree generally with some arguments and disagree with others but mostly – in a lot of places – what you see are statements that cry out for further explanation (and doubtless will get it from the Democrats). Some of these issues are problems of long running, long standing, that will not be entirely resolved four years from now whoever is governor. Some almost beg for easy rebuttal – he should be leery of using the gas tax increase against Gregoire, since it was the state’s voters after all who locked it in place, rejecting arguments against from Rossi’s allies. And does Rossi think he’s going to get voters stirred up in an abstract argument over school testing formulas?

His own proposals:

• Use the same priorities of government approach he led as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. In 2003, Rossi worked across party lines to pass a state budget that did raise taxes or cut services to vulnerable people – despite a $2.8 billion deficit. He would control state spending, not raise taxes and is opposed to the governor’s idea of a state income tax.

• Focus on traffic congestion and use transportation performance audits as drivers for reform and efficiency. He believes voters were misled and deserve what they promised.

• Not release violent, dangerous felons early from prison. He would also provide community corrections officers the resources and tools they need to properly monitor people released from prison on community supervision.

• Push for stronger punishment of sex offenders who fail to register and require them to disclose their Internet activities.

• Focus on children in state care and bring accountability to the state’s role with foster parents.

• Establish a stable and responsive K-12 public education funding formula that meets the state’s constitutional “paramount duty.” He would also hold school districts accountable for consistent failure and make it easier for talented people outside the teaching profession to teach subjects like math, science and computers.

Sounds fine, except that what he’s saying and what Gregoire will say out on the stump won’t be significantly different. Rossi says he wants to address these things; Gregoire will argue that she has been working on them and wants to do more in a second term. So where in that is the compelling argument for replacement?

An opening statement isn’t, of course, a delimiter; Rossi’s campaign message can evolve over the year to come. He and his managers may be bearing that in mind, and see this opening as a relatively non-controversial opening shot. One way or another, an evolution may be in the air regardless as the campaign takes further shape.

A LIST Rossi’s campaign website has one item on it we don’t usually see, a link to “Call Talk Radio.” Click there and you get a wonderful little resource: A list of talk radio programs across the state. It’s a list we at least will be taking advantage of (for purposes of listening, though, rather than calling in . . .)

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One Comment

  1. Aneurin Aneurin October 26, 2007

    That radio station list is a good resource. Noticeably absent however is any Vancouver outlet.

    An area the size of ours without any talk radio, that’s truly amazing. And no, Portland media outlets don’t cover Clark County, nor do their talk show hosts cover SW Washington issues with any regularity.

    Seems like the FCC’s commitment to localism in media ownership is a broken goal especially in Vancouver’s case.

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