Every four years, candidates for nine statewide executive offices — that’s a lot — appear on the Washington state ballot. Some of the offices, such as governor and attorney general, are political in nature and lend themselves to partisan campaigns. Others, such as state auditor or state treasurer, are more administrative and an odd fit in the partisan political process. But that’s how the state’s founders, deeply imbued by the populist fervor of the late 19th century, wanted state government to work.
Today, the Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board offers its recommendations for three positions: secretary of state, state auditor and state attorney general. The board brought together candidates for the secretary of state and auditor for face-to-face interviews that allowed a back-and-forth and follow-up questions. The board did not meet with attorney general candidates for reasons that will be explained below.
From these meetings, the board offers its endorsements as further information for the voters to consider as they arrive at their decisions. The board will weigh in on other statewide races later this month in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election. The board endorses the following candidates:
SECRETARY OF STATE: KIM WYMAN
Wyman, the only current Republican office holder who has been elected statewide, has followed in the footsteps of predecessors Sam Reed, Ralph Munro and others who have provided solid stewardship of the office, whose most visible duty is overseeing elections and initiatives. The office also registers private corporations, keeps historical records and regulates charitable organizations.
Wyman was elected in 2012 after serving as Thurston County auditor; at both the county and state levels, she has overseen elections with unchallenged fairness and has encouraged voter outreach, including a data-matching system that flags driver’s license holders who are not registered to vote. She has garnered the support of Republican and Democratic elections officials from around the state.
Wyman faces a strong challenge from former Seattle City Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski, a Democrat who was a Microsoft executive before getting into politics. Podlodowski, savvy and smart, believes voter participation is not what it could be, that the office could do more to encourage steps like automatic voter registration of those who get driver’s licenses and in helping counties to install more drop boxes for ballots. She also offers some probing observations about the technical ends of elections, especially cybersecurity. She likely would be a very capable head of the office.
But Wyman has exhibited her capabilities in administering elections and the other functions of the office. She has earned a second term.
STATE AUDITOR: PAT MCCARTHY
McCarthy, a Democrat, and opponent Mark Miloscia, a Democrat-turned-Republican, bring strong résumés to an office charged with holding state and local governments open and accountable. It’s also an office that is wallowing through the final months of Troy Kelley, who in 2015 was indicted on 15 charges related to an escrow firm he owned before he was elected in 2012. A jury acquitted Kelley on one of the counts and could not agree on verdicts for the other 14. Amid all the negative publicity and calls for his resignation, Kelley decided not to seek re-election.
Both of this year’s candidates talk about restoring public trust to the office. McCarthy is in her second term as Pierce County executive and has served as Pierce County auditor and as a Tacoma school board member. Miloscia, a 14-year state representative as a Democrat, switched parties in 2014 and won a south King County state Senate seat as a Republican. Outside of government service, he was a contract manager for Boeing’s B-1 program.
McCarthy touts her nuts-and-bolts experience in heading the government of the state’s second most-populous county. She presents arguments well about holding local governments accountable, especially in crafting solutions depending on local needs. She especially understands the role of the laws such as the Public Records Act in enabling government transparency.
Miloscia touts his public and private experience in describing how he has been in involved in audits for three decades. He states a goal of evaluating whistle-blower protections, reducing the cost of public records and reorganizing the Auditor’s Office for more efficiency. He asserts that he will drastically increase the number of government performance audits and can do so without more money, a claim to which we are skeptical. He also fixates on issues such as local expenditures on homelessness, a hot-button issue that finds local efforts around the country grappling with what works and what doesn’t in their communities.
All in all, we believe McCarthy has the solid experience and the proper temperament to bring the Auditor’s Office back on solid footing.
STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL; BOB FERGUSON
We didn’t conduct interviews on this race, and we don’t need to. Republicans didn’t field an opponent against first-term incumbent Democrat Bob Ferguson, leaving him with unknown and underfinanced Libertarian candidate Josh Trumbull, who practices law in Arlington.
Ferguson has been aggressive in consumer protection cases, an advocate for open records and open meeting laws, and he has maintained the state’s pressure on the federal government on Hanford nuclear reservation cleanup. He has taken on groups of all political philosophies on campaign finance laws.
He has admitted that his office erred in its handling of important evidence regarding an Oso mudslide lawsuit against the state; one of his attorneys knew emails were being deleted and didn’t intervene. Also, he has actively advocated an assault-weapons ban, a position that will require more scrutiny on whatever legislation emerges.
Trumbull, as a Libertarian, essentially is running against the two-party system. On his website, he claims Ferguson has politicized the office but offers no examples or a clear vision of where he would take the office. Ferguson has a clear direction of the office, and he should be allowed to continue to do so.
* Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board sitting in on these discussions are Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.