I could have used a martini with the Rossi

From the Aberdeen Daily World (Sunday, February 29, 2004)
By John Hughes
Dear Reader: As I headed out the door for the Grays Harbor GOP Lincoln Day Dinner, Managing Editor Doug Barker quipped, “Since you’re now the editor and publisher, did you go to the Democrats’ dinner as the editor? And are you going to the Republican dinner as the publisher?”
“Both, both times,” I shot back.
I grew up in a house with FDR’s portrait on the wall, yet mother later became a Dan Evans Republican. As a teenager, I helped post signs for both Sen. Scoop Jackson and Harry Elway, a Hoquiam Republican running for Congress.
Over the years, I’ve shared pipe tobacco with Gerald Ford (old-shoe, great guy); drank ice tea with Jimmy Carter (wonderful human being, lousy president); took a limo ride with Dan Quayle (smarter than I’d thought, but still dull as dishwater) and was seduced and abandoned by Bill Clinton. I’ve never been the same since.
In short, my new dual role as journalist and businessman causes me no political discomfort because I am an unapologetic Independent. I vote for the person, not the party. The parties dare not diss people like me because there are so many of us.
As for newspaper endorsements, while I’m the boss, I have just one vote on the Editorial Board. (The more fees and taxes I pay, I’ve been rethinking whether that sort of democracy is practical!)
The bottom line is that I still love party politics especially the buttons and bunting, the hoopla and speechmaking. I like crab feeds, conventions and banquets. It’s also fun to be wooed to keep ’em guessing.
Not that there aren’t awkward moments.
“What do you think of George Nethercutt?” a rock-ribbed Republican lady asked me Friday night at the Lincoln Day dinner in Aberdeen. She was gesturing toward the congressman, who was eating green beans a few feet away. “Won’t he make a great U.S. senator?!”
”I don’t know about that,” I replied, “but I think he has a huge problem and her name is Patty Murray. She is one smart, tough little cookie, and they’re already printing the posters that show Nethercutt as Pinocchio for breaking his promise about term limits.
Besides, he’s from Spokane.”
She smiled thinly, shook her head and advised me that “Patty loves Osama.” She kept a close watch on my mannerisms for the rest of the evening. Even though I clapped respectfully for President Bush after his video-taped exhortation to the faithful, I knew she was on to me as a dangerous free-thinker who buys ink by the barrel.
On the other hand, one of the evening’s more electric moments, at least for me, came when Nethercutt’s opponent for the GOP nomination, political science professor Reed Davis, delivered a deliciously snotty pitch accusing Nethercutt of being a big spender turncoat. Davis was funny and handsome, with really great hair hair better even than John Kerry’s.
I couldn’t see Nethercutt’s face from where I was sitting, so I don’t know if he was grinning or grimacing. The people at the tables around me were about 60-40 for Nethercutt, yet uniformly appreciative of the tension.
The Democrats always like to say they have a “big tent,” but the pitched ideological diversity in the GOP in Washington at least is more entertaining. One group I was in was talking passionately about “The Passion of the Christ” while another was complaining that the strongest beverage in the room was black coffee on a Friday night, no less.
Praise the Lord, but pass the Merlot. If the Democrats had a gubernatorial candidate named Dino Rossi there’d be “Martini and Rossi” fund-raisers all over the state.
That said, there was nothing puritanical about the performance of Seattle University student Mark Griswold the epitome of urbane young Rossi Republicanism who donned a Sinatra snap-brim hat to serenade the crowd with a customized version of “Love & Marriage.”
”Dino Rossi, Dino Rossi, come November, he won’t have lostie…”
Daily World reporter Levi Pulkkinen, a bright and charming Finn kid who was my date, gets an “A” for making that the lead of his story.
In my book, the Democrats have a formidable gubernatorial candidate in Attorney General Christine Gregoire. But Dino Rossi is the real deal an articulate, electable moderate with a solid track record as a businessman and legislator. He left the local Republicans more united and energized than I’ve seen them in years. They say he’s doing that all over the state.
Whatever they say, barring a miraculous opportunity to run against Phil Talmadge rather than Gregoire, Rossi will be counting on George W. Bush’s coattails.
A lot can change between March and November, but they don’t look very long to me.
It’s the economy, stupid.
I think it could be 1992 all over again.
My vote’s sure up for grabs and there are millions and millions more just like me.
John C. Hughes is editor & publisher of The Daily World. He can be reached at 532-4000, ext. 145, or pub@thedailyworld.com

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