PubliCola Picks

Vote for Finkbeiner, Wyman, Watkins, and Ferguson

By PubliCola Picks October 16, 2012


You certainly don't need our help marking your ballot in some of this year's high-profile contests. We imagine you've already made up your mind on big-ticket items such as the Attorney General's race.

(If not: PubliCola says vote for Democrat Bob Ferguson, the outstanding King County Council member, who—in addition to being the smartest guy in the room who has, by the way, never lost an election—has vowed to create an environmental-crimes unit in the AG's office and focus on gang violence and consumer protection.)

But you knew that. (Yesterday, we also told you something you already knew—outlawing gay marriage is unconstitutional. Approve R-74.)

However, there are a number of down-ballot races where it's not exactly clear how to vote: Should you vote for the lefty Democrat or the lefty Democrat in the race for the open state house seat in North Seattle's 46th Legislative District? Should you approve Senate Joint Resolution 8221 to lower the state's debt limit from nine percent to eight percent? Who should our next State Auditor be? And, huh?We elect Supreme Court Justices?

And there is, in fact, one high-profile ballot measure—I-1240, the charter schools measure—that isn't an approve-or-reject no-brainer. 

PubliCola will be rolling out endorsements on a select batch of races and measures over the course of this week (here are Monday's on the confusing state measures) where the choices aren't already 100 percent clear.

Today, a trio of statewide offices, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and State Auditor. —Eds.

PubliCola picks Kim Wyman for Secretary of State

Fortunately, an extremely qualified candidate stands ready to take Reed's place: Republican Kim Wyman, a longtime Thurston County auditor with more than two decades of experience managing elections in a Democratic-leaning jurisdiction. 

Another widely admired, longtime state official, Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, is stepping down this year. Fortunately, an extremely qualified candidate stands ready to take his place: Republican Kim Wyman, a longtime Thurston County auditor with more than two decades of experience managing elections in a largely Democratic-leaning jurisdiction.  

Both Wyman and her Democratic opponent, former state senator Kathleen Drew, are capable candidates who we're convinced would do well in the position.

Although Wyman opposes election-day registration and pre-registration for 16-and-17-year-olds—two proposals that are likely to boost Democratic Party turnout—her depth of experience is clearly superior to Drew's, as evidenced, in part, by the fact that 65 current and former county auditors and elections officials, including Democrats and Republicans, have endorsed her. She won her last election with two-thirds of the vote.

PubliCola Picks Bill Finkbeiner for Lieutenant Governor

The incumbent Lt. Governor, Democrat Brad Owen, has been in office since 1996; the Lt. Governor presides over senate proceedings and adjudicates on parliamentary disputes—including casting tie-breaking votes. On the key issue of his era for his party (the two-thirds requirement for the legislature to raise taxes), Owen has been an impediment, siding, for example, with the Republicans that it takes two-thirds to repeal a corporate tax loophole as well. So much for siding with this Democrat because, well, he's a DemocratOwen's zealous comittment to his non-profit resulted in violations of ethics rules.

Other than that, Owen has dedicated his time to his socially conservative non-profit, Strategies for Youth, barnstorming around the state playing in a balding rock band and denouncing drug abuse. In fact, his zealous comittment to his non-profit resulted in violations of ethics rules (using staff resources to raise money for his non-profit), making questionable payments to his wife, and using the non-profit to pay off his truck. 

The Republican challenger, former Redmond-area Republican state rep Bill Finkbeiner, fancies himself a peacemaker between the feuding caucuses and has some specific ideas to lower the temperature in Olympia, such as reframing his office as Geneva-style haven where leaders can come together to work through disputes. As a former legislator (albeit a lockstep pro-business conservative who agrees with Owen on the two-thirds issue re: repealing loopholes), he does have friends on both sides of the aisle, and we believe he's well positioned to invigorate a stalled process.

Finkbeiner also wants to work with leadership at the start of session to help set priorities—forcing the legislature to focus on priority bills, rather than going through the crazed annual process of sorting out 4,000 pieces of legislation—many of them just cut and paste bills from partisan playbooks around the country, via ALEC, for example, the conservative pseudo lobby.

Also on Finkbeiner's agenda—increasing accessibility to the legislative process (allow citizens to testify by video?), campaign finance reform, and lowering the state debt. The Lt. Governor doesn't have the full authority to legislate on these issues, but he does, for example, sit on the finance committee. 

Finkbeiner's mission to transform an office (that Owen has used as a headquarters for his own socailly conservative crusade) into an active seat for reform is much-welcomed after 15 years that culminated with revelations about Owen's questionable use of public resources.

PubliCola Picks James Watkins for State Auditor

The race for state auditor—a job filled for the last two decades by nominal Democrat and friend-of-Tim-Eyman Brian Sonntag—offers two lousy choices.

The Republican, James Watkins, is a Tea Party favorite who opposes so-called "partial-birth" abortions, supports a flat tax, and wants to de-fund the Department of Education. He has ran unsuccessfully for several other offices, including US Congress (he opposed then-US Rep. Jay Inslee, now the Democratic candidate for governor, in 2010, and for the newly redrawn 1st Congressional district, this year).

The race for state auditor offers two lousy choices.  

The Democrat, Troy Kelley, meanwhile, has been accused of fiscal misconduct, including charges of art theft (he was ultimately rewarded a settlement in that case) and of fraud, tax evasion, and destruction of evidence (Kelley paid his former employer an undisclosed amount to settle that suit). Kelley also opened an offshore account in Belize after moving millions of dollars from bank to bank while he was being sued for allegedly misappropriating funds from one of his clients. 

Both men have experience that otherwise qualifies them for the job—Kelley as chair of the state's Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC) and vice chair of the House Business and Financial Institutions Committee, and Watkins as a small-business consultant with decades of business-development and auditing experience. 

We don't like either candidate.

But you have to vote. And on balance—and given the fact that state auditor, unlike positions such as attorney general, has not historically been a stepping stone to higher office (and doesn't directly deal with hot-button social issues like abortion and immigration)—PubliCola will hold its nose at Watkins' Tea Party ideas (not good on immigration, by the way). Indeed, given Kelley's questionable financial conduct, we think Watkins is the more qualified—and, frankly, principled—candidate. 

And hey, his Tea Party leanings are tempered by some hippie ones: he supports public funding for things like transit and other non-car transportation alternatives (he bikes to work and he's a Cascade Bike Club member.)

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