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GOP candidate Dino Rossi speaks at Rotary lunch on Mercer Island

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi laughs during the opening welcome at the Mercer Island Rotary lunch at the Community Center at Mercer View on Mercer Island Tuesday, June 24, 2008. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi laughs during the opening welcome at the Mercer Island Rotary lunch at the Community Center at Mercer View on Mercer Island Tuesday, June 24, 2008.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Promising Islanders a rematch featuring a stronger and better challenger, GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi made a campaign stop on Mercer Island earlier today, sharing his plans to make Washington the "worst place to be a criminal and the best place to start a business."

Rossi, 48, a former state Senator from an Eastside legislative district, compared and contrasted what the incumbent has done and what he would do differently before an audience of about 80 Island Rotarians at the community center just three weeks after Gov. Chris Gregoire visited the same room. The Republican candidate spoke for about 30 minutes after having lunch with the group, sharing his views and criticisms of the governor's handling of public education, public safety, transportation and business issues in the past three years. He also stated that he and his family and staff plan to finish what they started during the last campaign in 2004: defeating Gregoire.

"With your help, we're going to win again. This time the recount is going to go in our favor," Rossi said after stating several recent polls show that he and Gregoire are in a statistical dead-heat race.

Rossi explained that the amount of support he has received so far — both financially and politically — was even better than it was four years ago deep into the race.

"I had no idea of how much voltage was on the other side of that switch," Rossi said of the immediate support he had last October when he announced he would run again.

Rossi told the crowd that he viewed citizens as customers of a government which commonly and more often treats them as a nuisance. The GOP candidate said the current governor has spent the past four years releasing prisoners, ignoring small businesses, raising taxes and has been "reckless at best" when it comes to state spending. He vowed to change that and promised he would not raise taxes.

"You have a tangible choice in this election. Usually, you don't have a tangible choice," said Rossi. "You have one candidate who was able to balance the worst budget in state history without cutting service and a governor who has raised taxes when she said she wasn't going to."

He suggested that the state begin to find ways to cut spending instead of raising taxes that are already some of the highest in the nation. He criticized the state's reliance on the gas tax and "sin" taxes from alcohol and cigarette sales.

"Sin taxes are so easy to raise," he said. "But they are already so high they are one of the highest in the nation. If we raised them anymore, Tony Soprano would want to get some of that action."

Rossi also shared his plans, if elected, to fix the state's congested highways without raising taxes. He said he would use state money generated from new-and-used car sales taxes to fund the $15 billion worth of needed highway projects across Washington. He also suggested that the state should eliminate the "regressive" death tax, which hurts small businesses, and said he would help make Washington a better state for local businesses.

"I want to make Washington an entrepreneurial state," Rossi said.

After describing his past of consistently defying the "nay-sayers" who have periodically tried to dissuade him from accomplishing his goals, Rossi shared some of his experiences in the commercial real estate business as a state Senator and the encouragement he received to run for public office. He credited his wife and four children for pushing him to run for governor again this year and shared a story about his 16-year-old daughter's competitive selection for a summer volunteer program through the Vatican in Italy.

"All is good in the Rossi family," he said.

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