Rossi hopes for speedy trial in election challenge
Dino Rossi was almost ready to throw in the towel, the Republican candidate for governor told reporters at a news conference today.
The Associated Press
BELLEVUE, — Dino Rossi was almost ready to throw in the towel, the Republican candidate for governor told reporters at a news conference today.
If a judge had ruled last Friday that Rossi's legal challenge to Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire's election had to go through the Legislature and not the courts, Rossi said he might have given up.
But the judge ruled the Republican's case could proceed. Today, Rossi said he hopes his election challenge will go to trial within a month.
"We'll be able to get to the bottom of these problems with the election," Rossi said. "I believe we have more than enough evidence to show, really, that we'll never know who won this election."
Democrats said the Republican's election challenge will probably take longer than that, quoting a December letter from Rossi saying an election challenge could stretch for months and would cause the state to suffer through a long, drawn-out process.
"Does he think it's worth it to put the state through this?" asked Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Brost.
Rossi, a real estate agent and former state senator, won the first two counts in the governor's election last fall but lost a hand recount to Gregoire by just 129 votes out of 2.9 million cast. He has challenged the election in Chelan County Superior Court, in a case that's expected to make its way ultimately to the state Supreme Court.
Rossi and the state Republican Party argue the election was tainted by illegal votes and election workers' errors. Republicans say they've identified more than 300 votes cast by felons, dead people and double-voters, plus 437 provisional ballots that were mistakenly fed directly into ballot tabulators without being verified.
Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges on Friday denied the state Democratic Party's attempts to get the case thrown out of court on several different grounds. Bridges said the bar for nullifying the election of a sitting governor will be high, but said, "This case should go forward, at least at this point."
Bridges also ruled that the court could not order a revote, as Rossi had sought. Nevertheless, Rossi said the rulings were a victory.
"We get to go to trial and we get to bring the evidence forward," he said.
Rossi said he'll be happy if the judge nullifies the 2004 election, creating a vacancy in the governor's office that would be filled at the next November general election.
The other option, if Rossi wins in court, would be for a judge to overturn Gregoire's victory and declare Rossi the new governor.
Initially, Rossi told reporters that if that happened, his first act as governor would be to go to the Legislature and ask lawmakers to call for a new election. A few minutes after ending his news conference, Rossi returned to the microphones to clarify that he would step down if a judge installed him as governor.
"I'd have to resign, I guess, and work with the Legislature and figure out how we'd get a new election," Rossi said. "I don't want to be governor under these circumstances."
If a judge installed him by fiat, Rossi said, "I'd be in the same boat (Gregoire) is in now, and it doesn't look like it's a good one."
Brost questioned whether Rossi would really resign if a judge kicked out Gregoire and declared him governor.
"For him to say that is disingenuous," she said. "I think there's more going on."
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