Rossi likely to face Sen. Murray after top-two primary

Washington State Republican Dino Rossi isn't worried about losing Tuesday's Senate primary.

"We're confident that we'll do well on Tuesday," Rossi told The Ballot Box. "I've built some real relationships with people around the state over the years, so we've been out talking to them."

More than just relationships, Rossi has built up name identification with voters during his two decades in politics. "This is my sixth election," he noted.

Rossi lost his initial state Senate run, but later won the first of two terms in 1996. He then embarked on a pair of unsuccessful runs for governor. Most observers believe his familiarity with voters presents an insurmountable obstacle to Republican rivals Clint Didier and Paul Akers.

Didier, a former Washington Redskins tight end, got the backing of Sarah Palin and state Tea Party groups before Rossi entered the race in May. His campaign has since faded from the headlines — so much so that Didier and Akers actually joined forces and began holding joint campaign events in an attempt to gain some traction for their anti-establishment message. But most observers believe it'll be Rossi versus Sen. Patty Murray (D) in the general election. 

With that in mind, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has tried to portray Rossi's jaunt through the primary as bruising. "The damage in the primary is already done," J.B. Poersch, the DSCC's executive director, wrote in a memo Monday. "Rossi is running as an unabashed far right conservative."

But the state's unique top-two primary system — in which the two highest vote getters from any party advance to the November ballot — dissuades candidates from tailoring their appeal exclusively to a base electorate.

"They're looking all around the political spectrum to get their votes," said David Ammons, a spokesman in the secretary of state's office. "There's one single ballot with everyone that filed back in June." Each candidate has 16 characters to explain their party affiliation on the unified ballot. It's the third time the state has used the system since it was adopted in 2004 (legal action delayed its implementation).

The secretary of state's office is expecting 38 percent turnout Tuesday, according to Ammons. Observers will be watching the tallies accrued by Murray and Rossi for indications of how well each will perform in November.

—Shane D'Aprile contributed to this post.

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