Get ready for a rough-and-tumble 2008 governor's race in Washington. The candidates haven't even formally declared they're running, but already the political bombs are dropping.
The Washington State Democrats have launched a new Web site called www.sleazyrossifrontgroup.com. The theme is that Republican Dino Rossi's non-profit Forward Washington Foundation think tank is a front for his unannounced campaign for governor. The Democrats earlier filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Rossi has resigned as president of Forward Washington, saying the controversy was dragging the organization down.
Gregoire's staff claims the listening tour is mandated by the Legislature, but that's a bit of a stretch. A law passed in 2005 says simply the governor "shall seek public involvement and input" as she's setting budget priorities.
Republicans are quick to note that 2008 is an off-budget year. The Legislature will pass a supplemental budget next year, but the main two-year spending plan has already been enacted.
Republicans allege the town hall tour is a taxpayer-funded campaign swing. They're especially galled by the fact pollster Stuart Elway has a $100,000 state contract to conduct focus groups as part of the tour. Elway, an independent pollster, did similar work for the governor last year.
Gregoire and Rossi are being very coy about announcing their candidacies. But the political parties are clearly chomping at the bit to get this rematch going - apparently the sooner, and more negative, the better.