When casting their ballots for a new secretary of state to replace the retiring and likable Sam Reed, partisan voters should remember two names.
Katherine Harris, a well-known strong Republican and working on the George W. Bush election campaign, was Florida’s secretary of state in 2000 when she presided over the controversial recount of presidential votes.
Ron Sims, a well-known strong Democrat, was the county executive overseeing the King County elections office when surprising numbers of uncounted ballots mysterious appeared in the dead-even gubernatorial race between Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi.
In both cases, suspicions of funny business were raised, and public confidence in the results was diminished.
It’s risky business to blend blatant partisanship with the counting of votes. For that reason, voters should elect Kim Wyman as Washington’s next secretary of state.
Wyman is running as a Republican only because state law requires candidates to pick a party preference for what ought to be a nonpartisan office. While Wyman would be the state’s first Republican female secretary of state, she is as close to a nonpartisan candidate as her predecessors Reed and Ralph Munro.
The highly Democratic voters of Thurston County have re-elected Wyman to four terms as a county auditor, the same path followed by Reed and Munro. A balance of Republicans and Democrats, including the liberal Washington Education Association, endorses her.
She also has the support from those who know best what it takes to run a fair election: 34 current and former county auditors on all sides of the political sphere.
Wyman’s opponent, Kathleen Drew, is a former Issaquah state legislator residing in Olympia and working for Gov. Gregoire’s office. She has many innovative ideas for the office that might add a fresh perspective to the role of secretary of state in Washington.
But Drew’s candidacy presents two problems. First, she has no experience running an elections office; and, second, she has no endorsements outside of her own political party or unashamed Democrat-leaning organizations.
Voters have trusted Washington’s former secretaries of state to count the votes fairly in tight and controversial contests, precisely because they have been regarded as nonpartisan office holders. Under Reed and Munro, we have not replicated the Florida or King County experiences.
Wyman’s nonpartisanship, experience and professionalism will inspire that same confidence.
Drew has said she favors giving political parties ultimate control over who runs for office with a party label. Wyman and Drew both support the Top 2 primary system.
Wyman says moving ahead on the Heritage Center – a place to house the state library and state archives – is one of her top legislative priorities. Drew says the state cannot afford a center, preferring to provide the information online.
Both candidates could do well in the office. Wyman, a native South Sounder, has an educational edge with a master’s degree in public administration and is a national and state Certified Election Administrator.
The successor to Reed must have the knowledge and heft of experience to run one of the nation’s most respected elections offices. She also must win the trust of all Washingtonians, regardless of party affiliation, that in a close call, politics won’t come into play.
Wyman is the most qualified choice to continue the deliberate nonpartisanship in the Secretary of State Office.