Rossi’s in town, and all business

EVERETT — Dino Rossi sightings are on the rise around town.

One day he’s lunching at Sisters Restaurant, another day he’s dining at Prohibition Grille, all part of corralling people with money for his latest venture.

This time, it’s business, not politics.

Rossi has hired on with Coast Equity Partners, an Everett-based commercial real estate firm, to scout out investors for income-producing properties in Washington and four other Western states.

“It’s where I started, and it’s always been my first love in the business world,” Rossi said in a recent phone conversation.

He got lots of offers after November’s election loss to Gov. Chris Gregoire; Coast Equity Partners emerged quickly as a first choice.

That isn’t surprising as the company’s principals are personal, professional and political friends.

Tom Hoban, one of the company’s partners, led Rossi’s campaign fundraising efforts in Snohomish County.

Michael Harmon, the company president, teamed with Rossi on the 2005 purchase of a building in Mill Creek that’s been a steady generator of income.

Now, roughly three days a week since the start of the year, he makes the reverse-commute from his Sammamish home to the company headquarters.

For Rossi, who grew up in Mountlake Terrace and attended Woodway High School, it is all about the job.

He’s not joining fraternal groups, service organization, chambers of commerce or attending Snohomish County Republican Party meetings. He’s keeping longstanding ties with the Special Olympics, Seattle University School of Business and University of Washington Deans Advisory Board — but that’s it.

“I unplugged from almost everything political,” he said.

But others have not unplugged from him.

Some want a chance to revisit the 2008 campaign.

“I’ve got people stopping me on the street all the time. They say, ‘You told the truth, there is a deficit,’ ” he said, a reference to Gregoire’s avoidance of the term throughout the gubernatorial race.

Others are soliciting advice about their political future as candidates.

“I try to find out why they’re running,” he said. “I tell them the only reason to run is to be in the right place at the right time to do some public good. I tell them if you want to see your name in the newspaper, I can guarantee you it’ll be surrounded by words that you don’t like.”

Rossi doesn’t seek opportunities to criticize Gregoire and the Democratic majority in the Legislature. He doesn’t shy away from them either.

Asked about the Legislature and the projected $9 billion shortfall, he said, “I don’t believe the current crew will be able to do it in the way it should be done.”

He called the situation “tailor-made” for his budgetary instincts, instantly recalling, as he did throughout two campaigns for governor, his role in writing a budget in 2003 that balanced out a multibillion-dollar deficit.

(Those comments came a few days before Democrats in the House and Senate approved a balanced budget plan reliant on $4 billion in spending cuts and an infusion of federal stimulus dollars and cash transfers from other state accounts.)

As Rossi starts speaking about current affairs, it’s evident he may be unplugged but he’s keeping close watch of the state’s political radar.

Republicans are starting to do what they need to do and give the public a viable option to Democrats, he said.

He forecast Republicans picking up seats in the House and Senate in 2010 and again in 2012. Voters’ will grow weary of Democrats’ “arrogant” control of the Legislature, he surmised.

When that time arrives, will there be more Dino Rossi sightings on the campaign trail?

“I haven’t said I’d never run again though I don’t know what it’d be at this point. Never say never,” he said.

“Sometimes losing is winning. God has a different plan for the Rossi family and with that I’m good. I’m happy with that.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623, jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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