In the months between his infinitesimally thin loss at the polls and his mile-wide drubbing in court, there has been a lot of speculation that Dino Rossi might challenge Maria Cantwell for her US Senate seat in 2006.
Um… I don’t think so.
Rossi has clearly stated on a number of occasions that he will not run for the Senate in 2006. It’s not so much his public protestations I find convincing… I am convinced by little of what he says in public. But more than one person close to Rossi — people who respect him and trust him — have told me that Rossi has privately assured them he would not run against Cantwell. They believe him, and I believe them.
So who will Karl Rove choose to face off against Sen. Cantwell? Media speculation has focused on former US Rep. Rick White, Safeco CEO Mike McGavick, and (wait… don’t laugh…) the state GOP’s whining, unlikable Chairman, Chris Vance.
Um… I don’t think so.
Of the three, only Vance has statewide name recognition… and it isn’t exactly the good kind. None of these potential candidates particularly strike fear in the hearts of Democrats; indeed a recent Strategic Vision poll (a Republican pollster) showed Cantwell losing to Rossi, but with a solid lead over other pretenders.
Maria Cantwell Chris Vance 35% 55% Rick White 38% 50% Mike McGavick 36% 50% George Nethercutt 38% 51% Jennifer Dunn 39% 50% Dino Rossi 52% 40%
Surely, Rove and the national GOP will try to get Rossi to go back on his word… something local Republicans have been known to do. But I’m going to make a bold prediction, and break the news that the stealth candidate in this race is (tada)… Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Yeah, I know… he’s only one-eighth into his first term, so it seems an unlikely candidacy, but McKenna is an ambitious man with designs on the White House (I’m not kidding) and in that context the AG’s office is only a stepping stone to a stepping stone. Besides, there are lots of little dots that when connected make the outline of giant arrow pointing towards the ’06 election. So I asked McKenna’s communications director, Greg Lane, if his boss would “categorically rule out a Senate run in 2006,” to which I received the following non-denial denial:
Rob’s position about this has not changed since he was elected in November. At that time, this ran in the SeattleP-I (Nov. 8, 2004):
Asked about his political future, McKenna said, “Who knows what will happen going forward? I see this (service as attorney general) as a minimum of an eight-year commitment, and I can even see 12.”
Nothing has changed. Rob is completely focused on making the AGO the most effective it can be, leading to a re-election run in 2008.
Hmmm. I guess Greg’s answer kinda, sorta sounds pretty definitive, but it didn’t really answer my question, did it? I mean, he could have cast any doubt aside by replying “Yes, Rob categorically rules out a Senate run in 2006.” And it doesn’t help his case any, that the article he cites to dispel the rumors was headlined: “Attorney general-elect McKenna boasts Gorton-like ways.”
For a guy who plans to hang out around the Capitol for a decade or so, it seems awfully odd that McKenna has no plans to move his family to Olympia. Nor, by the way, do some of his top aides. Especially those who have been hired on two-year contracts. And maybe I’m reading a bit more into this than I should, but I’m just a touch intrigued by the rumor going around that one of McKenna’s daughters, when asked if it was “cool” that her dad was elected AG, was nonplussed in answering, yeah, I guess so… but soon they’d all be moving to D.C. when her dad became Senator.
Ooops. Loose lips and all that.
In this context, a few other events start to make sense, like the inappropriate timing of his shameless pandering to the BIAW during the midst of the election contest. And more interesting, the hiring of State Sen. Luke Esser to a position in the AG’s office. Trust me, it wasn’t for the money — starting Assistant AGs are paid crap — so an AGO job hardly seems worth Esser sacrificing his state senate seat. Unless of course, he’s being groomed to replace McKenna as AG in the ensuing special election.
Just remember, you heard it here first.