Election 2010: Murray, Rossi look for last-minute voters in Wash. Senate battle
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 2:33 PM
SEATTLE - A hulking steel vessel bearing a thousand potential voters slipped gently into port before dawn Tuesday, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was on the dock to intercept the huddled masses. She reached for gloved hands as commuters from Bainbridge Island hustled by, rendered deaf by iPods or blind by their lateness to work. Alert passersby proffered well wishes quickly and impersonally, as one might toss loose change to a panhandler.
"I already voted for you."
Occasionally someone stopped to thank Murray for directing attention to veterans issues, for securing funding to build light rail, and for opposing the Supreme Court decision to deregulate the flow of corporate money to political campaigns. U.S. Postal Service employee Connie Crenshaw praised Murray's prodigious ability to wrangle federal dollars for the state - which her Republican opponent, real estate investor Dino Rossi, has used as a rallying cry against pork-barrel spending.
"The reality is earmarks are going to be there no matter what, and I'd rather have the money come to Washington state," said Crenshaw, 57 and an independent, after disembarking a ferry from Bremerton and shaking Murray's hand. Murray has ranked among the top 10 earmarking senators, bringing home $247 million for local projects in 2007 alone, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.
A small group of staffers and supporters backed Murray with chants and good cheer, and their early-morning spirit was challenged only once - by a woman wearing a scarf, headband and skirt over jeans who began to shout, "Dino! Dino! Dino!" from the parking lot below the dock.
This was Lynn Ferrari Rodriguez, 48, who took the ferry over from Bainbridge to drop her son off at school. Rodriguez, an independent who used to be a gung-ho Republican, became disenchanted with party politics and voted for Murray in her first Senate election in 1992 and for Barack Obama for president in 2008.
"I think she's a fine person, but it's time for a change," said Rodriguez, who works in human resources for BlackBerry and voted for Rossi because of his business background and his promise to reduce spending. Rodriguez supported the bailout but was upset by the way the Democratic Congress administered it, and she thinks the state would be better served by representatives who haven't made Congress their career.
"Our founding fathers intended for us to go and represent our constituency for a little while and then go back to our jobs," Rodriguez said. "She's been in the Senate for 18 years. It's time for new blood."
Both the Murray and Rossi campaigns spent the morning and early afternoon on a scavenger hunt for voters who may have lost or forgotten their mail-in ballots in the shuffle of their busy lives.
Because ballots may be postmarked as late as Election Day, the result of this tight vote-by-mail contest might be in doubt until later in the week. At least 50 percent of the ballots had been returned by close of business Monday afternoon, according to Nick Handy, director of elections for the office of the Secretary of State of Washington.
If a candidate has at least a three- or four-point lead after counties upload their numbers at 8 p.m. Pacific time, it's unlikely to be affected by ballots that trickle in Wednesday and Thursday, Handy said.