Dino Rossi says he’s running for Congress to replace Rep. Dave Reichert

Republican state Sen. Dino Rossi of Sammamish has announced he will run for Congress.
Republican state Sen. Dino Rossi of Sammamish has announced he will run for Congress. AP

Republican state Sen. Dino Rossi says he’ll run for Congress in the Eighth District to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.

Rossi, whose entry into the race had been anticipated for weeks, announced his 2018 campaign at the Washington State Republican Party’s annual dinner Thursday night in Bellevue.

In a Facebook post, Rossi wrote, “Congress is broken and needs fresh leadership,” and that “most of our leaders in D.C. seem too absorbed in scoring political points instead of working to fix problems.”

He declined an interview request Friday through a spokesman.

As a well-known politician who has run unsuccessfully three times for statewide office, Rossi’s entry into the race could cheer Republicans hoping to retain the Eighth District seat and maintain the status quo in Washington, D.C., where the GOP controls the House, Senate and White House.

National political analysts see Reichert’s seat as a top pickup possibility for Democrats seeking to flip control of the House in next year’s midterm elections.

Rossi’s entry doesn’t immediately change that picture, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan elections and politics newsletter published by the University of Virginia.

“It’s still a toss-up as an open seat, but Rossi gives the Republicans a very credible candidate who has carried this district in past races,” Kondik said in an email. “This is a recruiting win for House Republicans but this is still a tough seat for them to hold.”

A Sammamish resident, Rossi, 57, was in the state Senate from 1997 through 2003, when he chaired the Ways and Means Committee. He was appointed last year to fill a Senate vacancy in the Eastside’s 45th Legislative District after Sen. Andy Hill died of lung cancer.

Rossi is best known for his 2004 gubernatorial race, in which he nearly defeated then-Democratic Attorney General Chris Gregoire.

Initially declared the winner, Rossi lost by 133 votes after two recounts and a failed lawsuit. He lost a rematch with Gregoire in 2008 by 195,000 votes. In 2010, he lost an attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Patty Murray by about 119,000 votes.

In his Facebook announcement, Rossi noted he has “handily” carried the Eighth District in past elections. But, he added, “I’m not kidding myself; it’s going to be a tough race.”

Last year, Rossi was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where he supported Donald Trump’s nomination for president and criticized other delegates who tried to mount a last-ditch anti-Trump rebellion.

The Eighth District includes the eastern portions of Pierce and King counties and stretches across the mountains to Central Washington.

It has always been held by a Republican since its creation in 1983. But in presidential races, the district was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison said Rossi’s decision is a good sign for the GOP.

“Democrats should prepare for an uphill battle if they plan to challenge one of Washington’s beloved Republicans in a historically conservative district,” she said in a news release.

Democrats dismissed Rossi as old hat.

“Dino Rossi is a three-time loser candidate,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Tina Podlodowski said in a written statement. “From his anti-choice, anti-woman policy stances, to his support for lowering the minimum wage and his allegiance to corporate interests, Washington voters have repeatedly rejected Rossi’s extreme views.”

Several Democratic challengers have announced their campaigns, including Issaquah City Councilman Tola Marts, pediatrician Kim Schrier, former King County Deputy Prosecutor Jason Rittereiser, Amazon software developer Toby Whitney and business owner Mona Das.

Reichert announced his decision to retire from Congress earlier this month, saying he had no immediate post-Congress plans but intended to remain involved in public service.

It’s not yet clear whether Rossi will have an uncontested run from Republicans in the primary.

Metropolitan King County Councilman Reagan Dunn has expressed interest in the race and state Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, has said he’s considering a run.