Definitely Maybe: Questions for Sammamish’s Rossi as he weighs US Senate run

The Reporter contacted former Republican candidate for State Governor Dino Rossi on March 12 to find out more about a possible campaign for the US Senate seat.

So will he or won’t he?

After serving Sammamish and Issaquah in the State Senate for several years and running in the election for State Governor in both 2004 and 2008, Sammamish Republican Dino Rossi is now weighing a run for a U.S. Senate seat this year. The seat is currently held by a Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray, who is seeking re-election this November for a fourth term in office.

News and rumors of a possible run started early this year when three opinion polls gauging the race put Murray ahead of all challengers, but behind Rossi in a hypothetical match-up by two or three percentage points. The Reporter contacted Rossi on March 12 to find out more about a possible campaign for the US Senate seat.

Q. Mr. Rossi, lately there’s been a number of news stories reporting that you are considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Patty Murray. Is this true?

A. There are a lot of people making plans for my life. I have not said that I would never run for office. But I certainly haven’t said I would.

Starting out a suburban dad, I never thought I’d get involved in public service … But if I do run again, the key question is, “Where could I best serve?” We have four kids between (the ages of) 9 and 19. It’s not a simple decision made just by me.

Q. There is a recent Rasmussen Reports opinion poll that indicates you have a lead in a hypothetical match-up against Sen. Murray. How does that play into your decision to run or not?

A. This is the third poll in a row that has me ahead (a Jan. poll by Moore Information and a Feb. and March polls by Rasmussen). It’s flattering, but the question is does it make sense for my family? In 2004 and in 2008, I ran for governor because the way our state spends money is so severely broken. More recently, the federal spending deficits are growing and definitely going to impact our future. I’m weighing all that

But there’s no hurry. The filling deadline isn’t until June. Until then, it’s a discussion we have to have within the family. The questions we have to ask are, “Does it make sense for us to do this?”, and “Will it make a difference?” Because, I don’t need the job. I’ve got a great job right now … The way you want to enter into public service is you want to be in the right place in the right time, to do something good. I’m worried the spending has gone too far. Right now, we’re on a course that really, quite frankly, could bankrupt America. They need someone back there who could balance a budget, like we did in Olympia.

Q. Why are you considering a run for the U.S. Senate? What about serving locally, such as on the Sammamish City Council? For example, John Curley was recently elected to serve there.

A. I talk to John once in a while, but I don’t see him very often. Then again, I can always see him on TV. I think he’s enjoying it.

Q. So, why not serve as a member of a local city council?

A. It’s not an issue of public service. I’m on the board of Special Olympics, for example. You don’t have to hold public office to help others.

I could run for public office, I could run for the Senate, and I could run for noting at all. I’m perfectly happy with all three.

Honestly, I do like being at home for dinner at night.

Q. A U.S. Senate seat would move you pretty far from home, wouldn’t it?

A. It would. But running for public office is a lot of work. It’s a concentrated effort. It’s not a casual thing.

Q. Why are these polls including you before you’ve made a decision?

A. It’s common practice. They’ll take who they think is the most prominent name and put them up as an incumbent. The polls then get mentioned — they like that. It’s like free advertising. I’m clearly a known commodity — and it’s an interesting proposition.

Q. How many candidates would you be facing if you decided to run for the U.S. Senate?

A. There are 14 contenders.

Q. Do you have an opinion you could share about any of them?

A. No, I don’t have an opinion on them. Most called me before they got in. If you’ve never run for office before it’s a very interesting process.

It’s not just something you wake up and say, “I’m going to be a senator”

You have to inspire them to follow.

Q. If you were to run for the U.S. Senate seat, would you have enough time to put together a credible campaign?

A. It’s enough time from the standpoint that I’ve already got a lot of name recognition and know how to do this … That’s not going to be an issue.

I could set up a statewide campaign in about a week, if necessary. When I ran for governor the last time, we had 55,000 individual contributors in 2008 — which I think is a state record. The question I have to ask myself is, “Is this the place I need to be?” I’m going to take my time with the due diligence effort necessary and make a decision.

Q. Have you been consulting with anyone else about a possible campaign, local or national?

A. There are number of people you want to touch base with, who are knowledgeable about this … but many are calling me.

Q. Like who? Could you name anyone specifically?

A. Well, I’m not going to name names, but let’s just say I have been getting calls from D.C., some from Senators you see on TV all the time.

Q. So what are you telling them?

A. Exactly what I told you. I’m an open book. I’ve been through this drill a couple of times. I know what needs to happen to say yes to this.

It’s a big effort but it’s certainly not impossible.

Q. You’re in the real estate business, correct? How has business been in the recession?

Q. Business? It’s been good, (Coast Equity Partners) invests in income properties. It’s a good time to buy. It’s been an adjustment in last 15 years to go from working (at Coast Equity) to running for public office, that cost me a lot of money, but that’s ok. I’m principal at Coast Equity Partners, and it’s building nicely … I first started my own business when I was 25 years old when I bought my first apartment building. It’s my first love in business world, owning and operating property … I’m pretty conservative in my investments, though. The last time I bought anything was in 2005. But we’re a long-term holding … We buy for the long term. That’s what they call in our business, the “boring husband” investment.