Washington State gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi
HH: I’m going to take a break for a moment from the presidential race and focus down the ballot in a very important state in the United States, Washington State. Way up there in the Northwestern part of the United States is a state that has been bereft of good leadership for a long time, and my guest is aiming to change that. Dino Rossi, long time member of the state legislature who ought to be the Governor right now. He was robbed, as we say in baseball. Dino Rossi, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DR: Well, thanks for having me.
HH: You know, I was with Michael Medved last week, Mr. Rossi, and he kept telling me that you two are pals, and that you’re ahead, and that you’re going to win this thing. Tell us about the governor’s race up there.
DR: Well, I tell you, we’re so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this point in time. And yes, we are going to win again with a recount-proof majority of votes. And I tell you, it’s been amazing, people coming out of the woodwork to help.
HH: Now let’s go back to 2004 for people in the audience who don’t recall what happened in Washington State. You were certified the governor of Washington State twice, and they just kept counting until they could beat you. What was the fallout from that, Dino Rossi?
DR: Well, what ended up happening, it’s true, what ended up happening in the end was that MoveOn.org and a few others paid for a hand recount. And by our law, the third count was the final count. You couldn’t have any more. And they flipped it by 129 votes out of three million cast, and they found a bunch of dead people, felons and the like. And King County had counted more votes than they could actually attribute to any voters, actual human beings that voted. And so I don’t know, I went out on a limb just saying well, you know, I think maybe every vote should have a voter. But in the end, what we’ve done, the positive thing that came from this, this happened in ’04. What’s happened since then, we now have a statewide voter database which our secretary of state has, and he’s wiped off over 465,000 registrations off the voting rolls that shouldn’t have been there, 465,000 registrations of people who registered twice, felons and dead people. And now there are seven people in prison from Acorn who were filing phony voter registrations on top of that. So otherwise, I wouldn’t do this again. I’ve got other things to do with my life.
HH: Now a lot of people expected you to move on after a very bitter loss. What did it teach you? I mean, you’re a man of faith. What does that kind of an experience teach you?
DR: Well, I’ll tell you, the bottom line for me, we have four children between seven and seventeen. And even going through that, you realize that the issue of fairness and the like, we saw what was happening, and we just realized that our children are sponges, and they’re going to see everything to do. So we never yelled, we never threw chairs or screamed, or anything like that. And I also have faith that everything in our life works out for the best. And I also have faith that everything evens itself in the end. It might be at the very end, but it all evens itself out. So with that, I was good. And that’s the kind of a way we looked at it. And consequently, our children are well adjusted, they aren’t bitter, they aren’t angry, and we’re moving forward in the course of this campaign, and people have taken notice of this race, because they realize the last Republican governor that was selected that got to serve in our state was 28 years ago.
HH: And has Washington State paid a price for that?
DR: Have they ever. The incumbent, after she said during the course of our campaign last time she wasn’t going to raise taxes, raised our taxes by well over a half a billion dollars, and now has blown through the biggest surplus the state has ever known, and turned it into what’s going to be the biggest deficit the state’s ever seen. And when I was chairman of the ways and means committee, I’m the guy that balanced the biggest deficit in state history without raising taxes, the first time, really, in our adult life we’ve had a major deficit that didn’t result in tax increases when I balanced the budget. But I also still protected the most vulnerable people, and even ended up receiving awards for being fiscally conservative, but six different awards from the developmentally disabled community for doing what I said I’d do, for protecting their funding.
HH: Now Dino Rossi, we’ve been seeing amazing Republican conservative governors over the last few weeks, Bobby Jindal leading the effort to prepare Louisiana, of course, Charlie Crist in Florida, and we had Haley Barbour in Mississippi. And then of course, Sarah Palin comes out of nowhere in Alaska, and just impressed the entire country with her approach to governance. What is it that you folks have that the other side doesn’t?
DR: Well, actually, I come from the private sector. I’ll be the first governor in my lifetime to sign the front side of a paycheck, you know, worked my way through college as a janitor, started in the commercial real estate business with a $200 dollar car, and bought my first apartment building when I was 25 years old. So it’s the good fortune I’ve had in that business that allows me to be involved in public service. So I look at things differently. And I really don’t, I tell people in our state we’re sending $33 billion dollars down to Olympia every two years, and if anybody’s feeling guilty you aren’t sending enough of your money down there, let me absolve you of all guilt right now. It’s how we spend it that counts. And it really, I think it’s people who have actually been out there in the real world and risked their own capital and done things like that that really makes a difference.
HH: What is the most pressing issue that Washington State voters are looking at?
DR: Right now it’s going to be the budget. We are upside down. What she’s going to claim, she’s trying to blame President Bush, and she’s trying to blame all these other folks. She just needs to look in the mirror. This, what’s going to be over a $3 billion dollar deficit that she’s created, is projected out to next year with 8% revenue growth. That means you had 8% more money to spend, but you outspent it by about $3 billion bucks. That’s irresponsible at best, and that’ll be one of the main issues that we’ll be talking about. And it so happens that I’m the only one that can look in the camera and say if I hadn’t balanced budgets like this before, I’d be terrified. But I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. And folks at home are going to go you know what? He has.
HH: Now what about mass transit? Michael Medved cannot talk to me about Washington State without talking to me about mass transit. What’s the situation from your perspective?
DR: Well, we have a lot of issues here. Transportation’s going to be a big one. We’ve neglected our infrastructure. And I’ve come up with a transportation plan that isn’t going to raise people’s taxes. It puts a $15 billion dollar plan, and we’ll be doing what 33 other states in America do plus the District of Columbia, by using a narrow sliver of the state’s general fund instead of raising a gas tax, which is what we normally do. And that’s going to be a big piece of this. Now the mass transit, local transit issues are really decided by local government folks. I don’t plan on meddling in that. My job is really the state highways, and I’m going to do the best that I can with that.
HH: Talking with Dino Rossi, candidate on the Republican side for Governor of Washington State in a very competitive race up there the Republicans are looking to to bring some fresh voices on the West Coast. Now it’s a very liberal place. Washington State’s got a reputation of being very secular, very liberal. You’re a Roman Catholic, and a Mass attending Roman Catholic. How does that play in Washington State?
DR: Well you know, we’ve had great support not just from Republicans, but independents and Democrats and libertarians. And last time, in ’04, I ran eight points ahead of the President. And we have nine Congressional districts in our state, and I went six out of nine, even though we only have three Republicans. And so this is, you know, the reality is that there’s so many Democrats that are tired of the same people doing the same old thing that we had tens of thousands that crossed party lines. We’re going to have them again. They call themselves Dinocrats. They say I am still a Democrat, but I’m going to support this guy. And a lot of them are rural type of Democrats, more conservative, truly down to Earth, that say you know what? We have to go in a different direction. My goal is to turn this into an entrepreneurial state. And I tell people very succinctly what I want to see happen is that I want Washington State to be the worst place in America to be a criminal, and the best place in America to start a business. And I think it’s all possible.
HH: What do you make of the reaction to Sarah Palin? Why is she so popular?
DR: Oh, I knew she’d be popular. Actually, they flew me up to do a fundraiser for her in Anchorage in ’06, just after she had defeated Murkowski. And that’s when I first got to meet her. And very impressed, and she’s just a real person. That’s why people like her. And that’s what they want. They just want some honesty with their candidates, and they want to like their candidates. And she’s incredibly likable, even before she had spoken at the convention. You know, half my family’s from Alaska. My grandfather on my mom’s side went up to Alaska during the gold rush in the 1800s, so my mom was born and raised in Alaska. So I have a lot of relatives up there. She has over an 80% popularity.
DR: It’s not because she’s doing things wrong. Wait until you listen to her.
HH: You come out of commercial real estate, and did very, very well there. That’s not the mortgage business industry, but of course, it’s got to impact commercial real estate, the housing downturn and the land downturn. When do you see that ending, and what do you make of the bailout of Freddie and Fanny?
DR: Well, I’ll tell you, it’s difficult around the country. It hasn’t affected Washington State as much. We’ve been real fortunate up here that people have wanted Boeing Airplanes and Microsoft software. So the effect is very different up here in Washington State than it’s been in, say, Nevada or Arizona or California, or Florida, very different.
HH: And in terms of international trade, you must be doing a lot of business with Canada. The Governor of Washington State’s got to be concerned about the backlash against free trade right now. Is that an issue in the governor’s race?
DR: It’s always…one out of three jobs in Washington State comes from trade.
DR: And we’re the biggest exporter, I mean, we export one Boeing plane…that’s a lot of money…and you want to talk about dollar values of all states. And this is very important for us. Trade, we’re right here on the Pacific rim, and it’s very important for us. And that’s something I plan to be very involved with. When I graduated from college, I sold everything I had and moved to Southeast Asia, traveled around for nine months. So I do know a little bit about Asia. And this is something that I think we’re going to capitalize on.
HH: Last question, Dino Rossi, and by the way, the website is www.dinorossi.com to get involved and to help him become the next governor of Washington State. People look to governors when there’s a crisis, whether it’s a hurricane, an earthquake, a forest fire, et cetera. Do you have confidence in your ability to run those situations better than your opponent has?
DR: I certainly do. And they’re looking for a calm, steady hand. And I tell people that my vision, really, and how I’ve operated in the state senate when it comes to public service is really the three R’s, which is a reasonable, rational, responsible approach. And that’s the filter I run through. And my dad always told all seven of us kids, my dad was a schoolteacher, and he told all seven of his kids, he says you know, don’t get so excited, because nothing’s ever as great as you think it’s going to be, or is ever as bad as you think it’s going to be, so don’t get all worked up.
HH: Good theory.
DR: You need to have a calm person in charge. It’s very helpful.
HH: Dino Rossi, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Good luck in the weeks ahead, we’ll check back in with you as we get closer and closer to election day in Washington State. www.dinorossi.com, America.
End of interview.