Republican Dino Rossi pulled in more than $578,000 in nine days after announcing his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington’s 8th Congressional District — more than double the money raised by any of the lesser-known Democrats in the race.
The donations came between Sept. 21, when Rossi announced his candidacyat a GOP dinner, and Sept. 30, the close of the third quarter for Federal Election Commission fundraising reports. The FEC reports were a first test of strength in the race that is viewed as crucial for control of the U.S. House in 2018.
While Rossi appears so far to have united Republicans, several Democrats have been competing for support.
Pediatrician Kim Schrier leads the Democratic field in fundraising, reporting more than $273,000 in contributions since entering the race in August. She’s followed by former deputy prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, who has raised about $222,000. Mona Das, a mortgage business owner, raised more than $56,000.
Toby Whitney, a former congressional aide, reported no donations as of Monday, according to the FEC. He did not immediately return a call for comment. Another candidate, Issaquah City Councilman Tola Marts, recently dropped out of the race, citing poor fundraising, and endorsed Schrier. Before he ended his candidacy, Marts had raised about $69,000.
Rossi, a Sammamish state senator who has lost three statewide bids for elected office, is hoping a narrower band of voters in the historically Republican 8th District will finally hand him the type of major political office that he has long sought.
His early fundraising numbers gave Republicans some reason to boast.
In a Facebook post, Rossi wrote he was “thrilled and grateful” for the support, adding that 95 percent of his donations came from Washington state. His donations included checks from long-time GOP backers, including developers George Rowley and Martin Selig, former state House Majority Leader Dale Foreman, lobbyist Jamie Durkan, and Dennis Bassford, the chief executive of Seattle-based payday lender Moneytree.
In an email, Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, mocked Democrats as “divided and quickly falling behind” in the key open-seat race and labeled Rossi a “juggernaut.”
Democrats fired back, predicting Rossi will lose again.
“If you call losing three times in a row a juggernaut, that’s one way to look at it,” responded Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, in an interview during a Monday visit to Seattle’s Labor Temple.
“The thing about Washington state is people don’t want career politicians like Dino Rossi. People want someone who is fighting for them,” said Perez, who was in town meeting with labor and tech leaders and fundraising for the DNC.
Still, the state Democratic Party sounded an alarm over Rossi’s impressive early haul in an email over the weekend. “You and I knew this could happen — and it did,” said the email, noting Rossi raised the money in “just nine (NINE!) days…”
“Look, we’re never going to match his massive network of wealthy Republican donors, but we can keep Rossi retired by coming together with a groundswell of grassroots support,” the email continued.
Rossi is a familiar foe for Democrats. He became a household name in Washington politics in 2004, when he nearly was elected governor, losing by 133 votes after two recounts and an unsuccessful lawsuit sealed a victory for Democrat Chris Gregoire. Rossi lost a rematch with Gregoire four years later. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, losing to Sen. Patty Murray.
Rossi served as a state senator from 1997 to 2003 and has twice returned on a temporary basis to fill vacancies, serving briefly in 2012 and again this year, taking the place of the late Andy Hill, who died of cancer.
With several months to go before the filing deadline in the race, the candidate field is still evolving.
The latest entrant is Democrat Brayden Olson, a self-described entrepreneur and advocate for getting young people involved in politics.
Olson, who has not yet reported any donations, but has set up a website, is best known for claiming to be frequently mistaken for a real-life Christian Grey, the fictional billionaire protagonist in the erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey” book and movie.
A 2015 Business Insider piece on the claims showed Olson in glamour photo poses and a picture of the luxury sports car he drives.