Voters face quite a conundrum in the race to replace retiring Secretary of State Sam Reed. All four candidates are accomplished public servants who can handle the job, which has become higher profile since the multiple recounts in the super-close 2004 gubernatorial race.
Three Democrats and one Republican are the main candidates for a job that’s had only two office holders since 1980.
Greg Nickels, a Democrat, is the former mayor of Seattle. He lost that job in the 2009 primary. He has taught at Harvard and served as a United Nations delegate since then. He’s troubled by changes in the initiative process, saying it’s become a tool of special interests. Costco spearheading the liquor initiative, for example. He says the process has gotten off track with paid signature gatherers, and would like to see some reforms, like having them paid by the hour, and perhaps requiring them to register to vote.
Kathleen Drew, a Democrat, was a state senator and, most recently, a policy adviser to Gov. Chris Gregoire. She worked with the Secretary of State’s Office to ease the voting process for overseas and military voters. She would like to see consistent scrutiny of signatures for ballots and petitions. She also wants candidates to carry accurate labels on the ballot. If they say they prefer a party, they should be a member. She also wants consistency in drop-box locations for ballots.
Jim Kastama, a Democrat from Puyallup, made headlines in the spring by crossing over to support the GOP budget. He chaired the elections panel formed after the controversial 2004 gubernatorial race and spearheaded changes in how votes are counted. He wants to implement performance measures for the office and to find ways of boosting the number of registered voters. He thinks the office can save the state money by performing archive functions for other agencies. He also thinks the office is an untapped resource for organizing business contacts.
Kim Wyman, the lone Republican in the field, is the current auditor for Thurston County, and in that position has run elections since 2001. She would like to emulate the nonpartisan way Reed has run the office. She wants to further modernize the election process without sacrificing ballot security. Impressively, she has won the endorsement of more than 50 current and former auditors from both major parties. She also has the backing of the past three secretaries of state, including Reed. Though she is from a Democratic-leaning county, she has been able to win re-election because of her expertise and the even-handed administration of elections.
In this race, endorsements can also be a burden, because the perception of fair-mindedness is essential. Nickels and Drew draw heavy support from Democrats and liberal organizations. That could be problematic in the midst of tight recounts and other controversies.
Kastama has demonstrated his independence by bucking his party during tough budget negotiations. Wyman has won respect from both sides of the aisle for her work. We think both should advance to the general election.