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Wednesday, May 05, 2004 - Page updated at 09:58 A.M.

KIRO radio's Dave Ross eyes run for Congress

By Warren Cornwall
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Dave Ross would be a "dynamite candidate," according to the state's Democratic Party chairman.
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State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt is courting KIRO radio talk-show host Dave Ross to run for Congress in the suburban 8th District, and Ross says he hasn't ruled out the idea.

Berendt confirmed yesterday he's preparing to pay for a poll aimed at gauging how Ross might fare if he got into the race.

"In my career, I have never closed any doors. So when someone says, 'Can we at least look into it?' OK, fine," the 52-year-old Ross said from his Mercer Island home. "I can just assume that he thinks my name recognition would be a good thing."

The 8th District, which includes much of East and South King County and East Pierce County, has been controlled by Republicans for more than two decades. But Democrats believe they have a shot this year with the retirement of U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn.

The two other Democrats in the race — former RealNetworks executive Alex Alben and three-time Dunn challenger Heidi Behrens-Benedict — are fine candidates, Berendt said. But the party head said he had heard Ross might be a potential candidate in the race, and he couldn't pass it up.

"I think he'd be a dynamite candidate," Berendt said. "People are yearning for the kind of straight talk on issues that he would bring to the table. And so that's what I had in mind when I approached him."

Ross, who hosts a midmorning show on KIRO-AM (710), said he had not been thinking about entering the race when Berendt asked him to lunch and proposed the idea. Ross said he isn't taking any steps toward entering the race, and doubts his own viability as a candidate because his positions so often cross party lines.

Republicans contended the discussions mean Democrats have doubts about the viability of the two candidates in the race.

"If you've got a candidate you're happy with, you don't go out and encourage someone else to get in the race," said state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance.

Republicans have four candidates contending for the nomination: King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, GOP activist and former federal prosecutor Diane Tebelius, Bellevue City Councilman Conrad Lee and state Sen. Luke Esser.

Alben, who has led in early fund-raising and loaned his campaign $200,000, yesterday announced endorsements from Gov. Gary Locke and five Democrats in the state's congressional delegation: Reps. Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen and Adam Smith.
"If Dave's going to run, he better make up his mind quickly because he has a lot of catching up to do," said Alben campaign manager Ben Vaught. "We've raised over half a million dollars, earned a lot of endorsements and a lot of grassroots support."

Ross is a prominent fixture in the local political world, with a top-rated radio show that covers issues ranging from local elections to the war in Iraq.

The political positions of a man who calls himself the leader of the "Eastlake Avenue Crusaders for Common Sense" defy easy description.

Ross yesterday said he doesn't call himself a Democrat, and that his positions cross party lines. He was an opponent of the Vietnam War, and has had pointed criticism for the handling of the war in Iraq.

He said he's a deficit hawk who once read a daily bulletin on the size of the deficit. He described himself as a supporter of President Bush's effort to give federal funds to faith-based social programs. While he voted for former President Clinton twice, he also consistently voted for former state Rep. Ida Ballasiotes, a Republican from Mercer Island.

"Who's going to vote for a talk-show host, and who's going to vote for somebody who can't be categorized?" Ross said. "For fund-raisers, that clearly would not be an appeal."

Berendt, however, said Ross's independence could be a great strength for him as a candidate.

"I told him that people were looking for someone that was going to speak the truth," he said.

Ross said he had no particular timeline to reach a decision. His decision did not hinge on a particular result from the poll, he said.

"I'm truly taking it one day at a time," he said, as he took a break from building a grape arbor at his home.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or

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