Dino Rossi in stimulus land | Editorial

U.S. Senate candidate Dino Rossi picked a strange place to pitch his “small government” philosophy Friday, and the results were mixed.

The Republican, a two-time loser for governor to Chris Gregoire, this time is trying to knock off 16-year senatorial incumbent Patty Murray. He’s depicting her as a big-spender and branded her as an earmarker, but on Whidbey Island those characterizations aren’t necessarily bad.

Whidbey Island has depended on the federal government for a share of the cost of constructing badly needed new ferries. On South Whidbey, Rossi heard that its largest private employer, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, had benefitted greatly from federal stimulus spending, from government boat contracts to $841,000 for new equipment. Rossi’s campaign didn’t mention that in its post-tour news release.

What Rossi did mention was his tour in Oak Harbor of Krieg Construction and Krieg Concrete, where the owners complained of too much government regulation. Rossi took advantage of the opening to knock the cost of federal spending, from the stimulus funds to the new health care plan. Ironically, Krieg Construction directly benefited from stimulus spending, though nobody wanted to talk about that. The company won a county contract for construction on Ault Field Road; it was funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Oddly, no mentioned was of the elephant in the room, that being the biggest federal project of all on Whidbey Island -- the Naval Air Station. Without its massive payroll Oak Harbor would go back to what it once was -- the third largest city on Whidbey Island. If the Navy left or was significantly cut back, Oak Harbor would be financially devastated.

On his tour, Rossi found that Nichols Brothers wants more stimulus money, not less, and he must have noticed that nobody around here is proposing a reduction in Navy spending. Murray, of course, is willing to spend more for anything that creates jobs.

This is not to say that Rossi is wrong in his desire for a smaller federal government. But it does demonstrate that he’s picked a campaign them will be a tough sell during tough times.

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