Dino Rossi and his disciples exchange support

A lack of Snohomish County Republicans running for office concerned Dino Rossi enough that he’s out recruiting.

So far he’s found himself a couple of disciples — Rick Bart and Mike Hope — willing to pay the ultimate electoral sacrifice in November if it helps put Rossi in the governor’s mansion next year.

Bart, Snohomish County’s former sheriff, is emerging from a three-month political retirement to take on four-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., for Congress.

Hope, who lost bids for the statehouse in 2004 and 2006, is trying again in the 44th Legislative District against appointed Rep. Liz Loomis, D-Snohomish.

Both men showed plenty of waver these last weeks.

Bart faces an undertaking far greater in magnitude than the run for county executive he quit in 2007. He spent a month testing the buoyancy of his trial balloon among potential supporters.

Hope declared his candidacy weeks ago then backpedaled, telling friends he might go for a County Council seat instead.

It wasn’t until each spoke with Rossi that they cemented their decisions.

Rossi promised to help Bart raise money. On April 15, Bart will hold a $125-a-person fundraiser with you know who as headliner.

Hope got a potential path for winning that entails him riding Rossi’s coattails and spreading the guy’s message.

In return, Rossi can pretty much count on these guys to aid his campaign. They’re so ready to serve.

Hope is geared up to be part of what he calls the “Rossi Revolution.”

And Bart said Thursday if losing a federal race helps Rossi win, then so be it.

“If I can help Dino I will. If I can help the party I will. I think my candidacy will do both,” he said.

Such loyalty is hard to find and Rossi is looking for more of it in Snohomish County, which swung his way four years ago.

Yet it won’t be easy for him to replicate his performance.

Democrats are better organized and hold more elected offices in cities, the county and the region’s legislative delegation than in 2004.

The Republican Party, meanwhile, is rebuilding itself and is nearly out of competitive candidates at every level just when Rossi needs them most.

The absence of GOP challengers is notable in the three legislative districts where most of the county voters reside — the 21st, 38th and 44th.

In 2004, Republicans mounted fights for each of the seven Democrat-held seats up for election in those districts. Today, with six of those again on the ballot, only two GOP challengers have surfaced. And only one — Hope — is mounting a serious try.

For Rossi, each candidate provides him a toehold in their community, a means of delivering his literature along with their own and attending rallies they organize.

It’s an investment worth pursuing and why Rossi is not done recruiting disciples.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. He can be heard at 8 a.m. Mondays on the Morning Show on KSER 90.7 FM. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfieldheraldnet.com.

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