Five members of Vote Vets, a political group that backs candidates who have served in the military, stood behind a podium in a Seattle Center conference room to tell an audience of one (yours truly) that while Patty Murray has been pushing vet-backed bills in DC, Dino Rossi's record on the subject is "overwhelmingly negative."
But that's not true. From the time Rossi entered the State Senate in 1997 to his exit at the end of 2003, there isn't a single instance of him ever voting against a bill for vets.
Iraq War veterans Jon Soltz and Jeremy Broussard founded Vote Vets in 2006 believing that Congress was mishandling the wars in the Middle East thanks to a lack of elected officials with military experience. Vote Vets' political action committee only endorses veterans, explains Rick Hegdahl, who heads up the group in Washington. So Murray isn't getting an official stamp of approval, just a lot of hearty support.
Hegdahl says the group is officially non-partisan though so far this year, every endorsed candidate for Congress is a Democrat and last year only 8 percent of the $172,000 donated by by the PAC to various candidates went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
While waiting to see if anyone else showed up for their press conference, Hegdahl and fellow vet State Senator Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) discussed whether or not they would help get Kirkland Democrat Eric Oemig re-elected to his seat in Olympia.
Anybody out there?
Hobbs warned Hegdahl that Oemig had voted against legislation vet groups wanted to see passed in the Senate, including a bill to make it possible for military personnel serving overseas to vote online. "But you gotta support him because he's a 'D'," Hobbs concluded, promising Hegdahl he'd work on the wayward Oemig.
Rossi, it seems, was a better friend than Oemig at least. In addition to voting "aye" on every vet bill where he was present to cast a ballot, in 1997 he sponsored a measure to make bolstering veterans programs in the state a priority.
Confronted with Rossi's actual record on veterans during the formal press conference itself, Hobbs argued that the more important thing is that Rossi hasn't been an active advocate for veterans the way Murray has. "It's not enough to just sit there and take the vote," he said. Hobbs' time in Olympia didn't overlap with Rossi's.
More convincingly, the vets also argued that Murray's clout as the fourth-ranking member of the Senate and seat on the Veterans' Affairs Committee are other good reasons to keep her in office. If elected, "it's not like Dino Rossi would take over her job [on the committee]," notes Hegdahl.