At the age of 29, Rosellini was elected to the state senate as its youngest member, representing the 33rd district in south Seattle, the home of many Italian immigrants. A New Deal Democrat, Rosellini served from 1939 to 1957, and rose to the rank of majority leader. He was elected governor in 1956.
As governor, Rosellini coupled personal charm with decades of political know-how, developing a reputation for decisiveness and ability to move ahead on long-stalled projects. Don Hannula, longtime political columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote in 1996, "He was not a man of empty rhetoric. He got things done. His legacy is everywhere." In his 1997 biography, Rosellini, Immigrant's Son and Progressive Governor, author Payton Smith wrote: "He was attracted to issues where progress could be made and measured . . . Budget reform, economic development, transportation, higher education and institutions were the core matters to which he devoted his talent and governmental know-how."[page needed]
In order to promote economic development, Rosellini established a state department of commerce and championed the Seattle World's Fair in 1962.
He shepherded construction of what still is the longest floating bridge in the world, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, which was opened in 1963, and carries State Route 520 over Lake Washington from Seattle to Medina. The bridge was later named after him. In addition, he was a tireless supporter of higher education, strengthening the state university system and developing a system of junior colleges. During his time in office, Rosellini also reformed the state budget process and balanced the budget.
Rosellini was defeated in his bid for a third term as governor by Republican Daniel J. Evans in 1964. The Governor entered the primary unopposed by his ostensive rivals for the Democratic nomination, Lieutenant Governor John Cherberg or Attorney-General John J. O'Connell, but did encounter opposition from several unknown candidates who collectively garnered close to 50,000 votes.
The general election campaign was marked by bruising attacks on the candidate's integrity from both the Republican and Democratic camps. Governor Rosellini attempted to portray Evans as a supporter of Barry Goldwater and his record as antithetical to the interests of labor, welfare and education. Evans in turn charged Rosellini with financial impropriety and cronyism, alleging that the Governor solicited campaign funds from businesses under contract with the state government. Only one televised debate was agreed between the two candidates.
Rosellini made a comeback bid in 1972, but while he captured the Democratic nomination, he was again defeated overwhelmingly by Evans. Starting with a lead in the polls, Rosellini saw his support fall when he disparagingly referred to Governor Evans as "Danny Boy" and being accused of intervening on behalf of his friend Frank Colacurcio to obtain a club license in Hawaii while Governor himself. A minority of Evans' supporters also began to sport bumper stickers on the back of their cars stating "We Don't Need A Godfather," described by his daughter Lynn Rosellini as extremely hurtful to her father given his pride over his Italian ancestry.
After leaving office in 1965, Rosellini returned to the practice of law, and also became a political consultant, specializing in matters of the liquor and entertainment industries. Over the years, Rossellini served as an elder statesman of the state Democratic Party, mentoring political figures including Washington governors Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke.
In 2003, Rosellini was back in the news briefly when he was reported to have delivered campaign contributions to Seattle City Council members on behalf of strip-club owners, one of whom was a convicted racketeer. Rosellini was never charged in the scandal that became known as "Strippergate."
Until his death, Rosellini attended fundraisers for candidates and helped raise money for charities, particularly the Washington State Olympics Committee, which he chaired for many years.
Danny Westneat, columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote in 2005, "His record makes most governors after him look like slackers."
^ abHo, Vanessa (October 10, 2011), "Former Gov. Rosellini dies at 101", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, retrieved 2012-03-28, Former Washington state Gov. Albert D. Rosellini, who served two terms from 1957 to 1965, died Monday from complications relations to pneumonia. He was 101. "Washington state lost one of its brightest stars today," Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement.