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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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June 25, 2008 3:01 PM

Italian group says Dems Rossi attack is "racist"

Posted by David Postman

The Italian Club of Seattle sent a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire today complaining that a video produced by the state Democratic Party about Republican Dino Rossi is "racist" and "beyond offensive."

The group says the video, which criticizes Rossi's connections to the Building Industry Association of Washington, "aims to link Italian-American gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi to Italian-American criminals through the use of the theme song to The Sopranos .

The letter, from club president Brian DiJulio, mentions that former Democratic Gov. Albert Rosellini is a member. DiJulio says the video is an attempt to "associate Dino Rossi with criminal activity through the use of negative ethnic stereotyping" and is "beyond offensive."

Whether the State Democratic Party thought it clever to link Rossi to Italian-American criminals through the use of a popular mobster TV show is irrelevant; it is distasteful, and it is racist. Governor Gregoire, we believe we have your sympathy when we assert that using someone's ethnic heritage as a negative should not be condoned in this campaign.

DiJulio said in the letter he wants the video pulled from the Democrats' Web site and from YouTube and that Gregoire should ask that Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz resign.

MORE: Waiting for a response from Gregoire and the Democratic Party. Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser sent out a statement. It said, in part:

“It is outrageous that the Democrats would stoop to this level on Gregoire’s behalf. What’s next? Dino is also part Tlingit, Alaskan Native. Are they going to attack him for that, too? This type of racial stereotyping is unacceptable. Gregoire and the Democrats know they can’t win on the issues so instead they turn to ethnic attacks. It’s shameful and an insult to the voters of our state.”

MORE: Democratic spokesman Kelly Steele responds:

Our video is in no way meant to allege or imply that Republican Dino Rossi or his extremist, right-wing developer allies have ties to the mafia or organized crime. It's a catchy song, which we thought jibed stylistically with our communication about Rossi's designated attack squad -- the BIAW -- who continue to pour millions into false and misleading attack ads against Gov. Gregoire. That being said, we’d like to apologize to Rossi’s friend Mr. DiJulio, his organization, and anyone else we may have inadvertently offended. The video will be replaced shortly with an identical message regarding Rossi and the BIAW’s sleazy attack campaign, using a different song.

As an aside, Rossi doesn’t seem to have a problem with referencing The Sopranos when he’s attacking Gov. Gregoire. Here’s what he said in a speech just yesterday on Mercer Island:

“[Rossi] criticized the state's reliance on the gas tax and ‘sin’ taxes from alcohol and cigarette sales. ‘Sin taxes are so easy to raise,’ he said. ‘But they are already so high they are one of the highest in the nation. If we raised them anymore, Tony Soprano would want to get some of that action.’”

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