Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Washington State Executive Officials
OLYMPIA, Washington: Washington voters have a cornucopia of state executive races to settle in this year's general election, with a total of nine positions on the ballot, including the race for governor between former U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (D) and incumbent Washington attorney general Rob McKenna, widely recognized as the most hotly contested gubernatorial race of the season.
Incumbents are seeking re-election in five of the nine offices, and all five advanced past the August 7th blanket primary for the chance to defend their posts in the general election. Of the nine primaries, only one was completely uncontested: the race for treasurer. When the Republicans failed to field a candidate for treasurer in the primary, it looked as though incumbent James McIntire (D) would be sailing through the general election unopposed as well. Not long after McIntire instructed his campaign committee, fundraising apparatus included, to close up shop for the season, Republican primary write-in candidate for treasurer Sharon Hanek was certified for a place on the ballot, marking the first time in three decades that a statewide candidate cleared the 1% vote rule for top two primary write-ins, earning 3.4% of the primary vote. McIntire promptly resumed his campaign efforts.
The following offices are up for election in 2012 in Washington:
Washington is a mail in ballot state and does not have polling places - ballots are mailed out to voters at least 18 days before each election and in order to be counted, ballots must be:
- postmarked no later than Election Day; or
- returned to a designated ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day;
- returned in person to the county elections department by 8 p.m. on Election Day
Your county election officials can provide information about voting centers/election offices.
- Lt. Governor
- Attorney General
- Secretary of State
- Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Commissioner of Insurance
- Commissioner of Public Lands
|Candidates for governor|
- See also: Washington gubernatorial election, 2012
Incumbent Christine Gregoire (D) announced on June 13, 2011 she would not seek another term in office. After Gregoire revealed her imminent departure, two candidates emerged as clear front-runners: former Congressman Jay Inslee (D) and Rob McKenna (R). Inslee initially indicated he would hold his seat in Congress throughout the election cycle, but resigned on March 11th in order to focus on his campaign.
Inslee finished first in the August 7th primary, with McKenna close behind him. The two will square off for the open seat on November 6th and the winner will assume the role of chief executive officer in January.
The race to fill Gregoire's open seat is considered one of the most competitive in the county. After a series of five televised debates, record-breaking spending ($11.3 million in reported donations and independent expenditures from the Republican Governor's Association puts the figure over $40 million), and rolling media blitzes from both sides, Inslee and McKenna have remained neck and neck in the weeks leading up to the general election. Polls reflect the tightness of the race: Although Inslee held an average edge of one to three points between June and mid-October, McKenna outstripped Inslee 47-45 in the most recent Elway Research Poll, claiming his first lead since spring. According to the summary of results from that survey, "with 8% of likely voters still undecided...there is still plenty of life left in what is considered to be the hottest governors' race in the country."
On his website, Inslee notes that as governor, his "priority will be to create jobs in Washington and to expand economic opportunities in manufacturing, clean energy, high tech, biotech, agriculture and aerospace." He also plans to:
- help build a thriving, innovative economy that will form a lasting prosperity in communities around the state.
- help create an educational foundation and an infrastructure system that will each serve as an engine of job creation while also protecting the quality of life in Washington.
In early October 2011, Inslee drew criticism from the Seattle Times editorial board, which argues he should focus his campaign on state issues and not on whether his opponent, Rob McKenna, has supported health insurance reform.
McKenna outlines his plans for the governorship on his official campaign website. Key issues include, but are not limited to:
- create jobs through "tax reform and simplification, regulatory reform, and "developing the skills and education workers need to land well-paying positions."
- improve education through "innovative teaching practices, incentives, and flexibility that promote quality, and a variety of school models to meet differing student needs and society’s needs."
- reforming Washington's government by "promoting performance and utilizing competitive processes," through performance audits, required performance contracts, budgeting long-term, and reducing the size and cost of state general government.
- improve the agriculture sector by making "sure that our goods can be delivered efficiently, economically, and in a timely manner throughout the entire year."
|Candidates for lieutenant governor|
Incumbent Brad Owen (D) finished first in the primary. His general election challenger, Republican Bill Finkbeiner, finished in a distant second place, although a split vote between Finkbeiner and fellow Republican primary candidate Glenn Anderson could explain the gulf.
Owen was first elected lieutenant governor in 1996 and was subsequently re-elected in 2000, 2004, and 2008. He has the advantage heading into the final stretch, leading by 10 percentage points over Finkbeiner in the most recent poll and having doubled his opponent's total contributions and expenditures over the previous four campaign finance periods. Despite this apparent edge, polls show that roughly 1 in 3 voters remain undecided as of October 21, and Owen's post-primary disclosures reveal a major spike in campaign spending, suggesting that the incumbent is not underestimating the possibility of an upset.
On his campaign website, Finkbeiner pledges to "work to change the culture of the Senate and make our government more open to the public." He also outlines a four-part plan to achieve that goal that includes turning "the Lieutenant Governor's office into the 'Switzerland' of the legislature - a place where legislators can go to get help working out their disagreements. The Lieutenant Governor is not a part of either caucus and can work as a mediator on the issues facing the legislature," as well as campaign finance reform and banishing lobbyists from the state senate chambers during voting sessions.
Owen's official campaign website cites boosting employment and economic development as his top priority for the office. About his performance record on economic issues and plans for the next term, the website reads, "Brad will continue his work as a Goodwill Ambassador for our state, developing and maintaining strong relationships with other states and countries... Throughout his service as Lt. Governor, Brad has been able to make these trade missions to promote Washington state products at very little and in most cases no expense to the taxpayer."
|Candidates for Attorney General|
Incumbent attorney general Rob McKenna (R) decided to seek the governorship in 2012 rather than run for re-election. Three candidates ran for the open seat in the primary election, and on August 7th, King County Councilmen Bob Ferguson (D) and Reagan Dunn (R) received the first and second highest number of votes, respectively, earning their slots on the November ballot. The candidates sit next to each other on the metropolitan King County Council.
Dunn and Ferguson have voted alike on 99% of the legislation as Councilmen, and even traveled together overseas as fellows (both nominated by McKenna) at the Aspen Institute, an organization that promotes bipartisanship. Nonetheless, their respective campaigns have striven for differentiation, accentuating the candidates' conflicting positions on guns and the role of the attorney general. In debates, they have highlighted their different legal backgrounds and traded personal jabs about performances on the Council. Dunn's history as a prosecutor informs his stance that the responsibility of attorney general is heavy on criminal litigation; Ferguson's history as a private practice attorney specializing in civil cases informs his own that the office is almost entirely dedicated to "civil matters." Each has attracted endorsements from his respective party's leadership in Washington, for example Gregoire has endorsed Ferguson, and McKenna has endorsed Dunn.
They are both rising stars within their respective parties and have demonstrated strong fundraising abilities throughout the campaign season. Looking back on their campaign finance reports, Ferguson and Dunn each raised around $1.4 million since the beginning of the election cycle. Dunn raised slightly more overall, meanwhile Ferguson has reportedly doubled Dunn in expenditures. Ballotpedia and Governing Politics consistently rated the attorney general race as a toss-up, although Governing shifted to leaning Democratic in October. Early polls had Ferguson in a comfortable lead, but the most recent poll results from the Elway Research Institute showed Dunn trailing by only two points and 25% of voters still undecided as of two weeks prior to election day.
Bob Ferguson is a Washington native and current King County Councilman. His campaign focuses on some major issues he would expect to face if elected attorney general, such as defending consumers against fraud, veteran care, and environmental protection. Ferguson's political background includes three terms, representing two districts, on the King County Council. Since his first election in 2003, in which he ran a grassroots campaign resulting in the ousting of a 20 year incumbent, he has distinguished himself as a leader in creating reforms for increased government transparency and accountability of elected officials to taxpayers.
Reagan Dunn was appointed to the King County Council in 2005 to fill the vacancy created by current Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), who left the Council upon his election as Attorney General. Dunn was then elected in November, 2005 and re-elected in 2009 with 78% of the vote. On his official campaign website, Dunn said his mission is "to use the power of the office to increase public safety – in schools, at work, in our homes and in our neighborhoods." The self-described fiscal conservative cites the reduction of "millions of dollars wasted in settlement payouts by keeping state agencies from being sued in the first place" as one of his chief priorities for the office - something he, as a former private practice attorney experienced in advising both private companies and local governments on proper risk management, believes himself uniquely capable of achieving. In a departure from standard party lines, Dunn told the Seattle press in January that he was backing efforts to support gay marriage legislation as a King County Councilman and would do the same if elected attorney general.
|Candidates for Secretary of State|
Incumbent secretary Sam Reed (R) announced in 2011 that he was not seeking re-election. In the immediate aftermath, Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman (2001-present) became the first of what would grow to a seven candidate field to emerge in the race to replace him. Wyman touts her credentials as an auditor, having overseen many successful elections in her 20 year career that included a stint auditing under Secretary Reed. Wyman says she would be behind any legislation to increase voter-ID requirements. In the blanket primary election on August 7th, Wyman and Democrat Kathleen Drew received the first and second highest number of votes, respectively.
Kathleen Drew is a former state senator. Her husband, Steve Drew, is the Assessor for Thurston County, where Wyman serves as Auditor. As laid out on her campaign website, Drew's campaign platform is to "ensure impartial and fair elections, streamline services, and increase community and civic engagement." She boasts "over 25 years experience as a results-oriented, effective public service manager for the people of Washington State." Drew, who currently serves as adviser for Gov. Christine Gregoire(D), wants to increase voter registration and "oppose efforts to suppress or discourage any groups or individuals from voting."
Limited polling information and campaign finance reports suggest that Drew has a slight edge heading into the general election, however they have proven equally capable of earning major endorsements (Wyman is supported by Reed and The Seattle Times, and Drew was endorsed by Gregoire and female candidate fundraising group EMILY's list) and overall, Wyman has attracted more support from newspapers. As of the week before the election, neither outcome would be surprising.
|Candidates for State Treasurer|
Former state lawmaker and first term incumbent treasurer James McIntire is running for re-election in 2012. He was unopposed in the primary and faces one challenger in the general election, Sharon Hanek (R). McIntire is running on his record of accomplishments leading the treasurer's office since taking office four years ago. On his campaign website, McIntire touts his successful management of the state’s credit amid a period of "financial trauma," and advocating measures like the new state debt limit (appearing on the November ballot) which he believes will enable Washington to sustain its credibility as a borrower. McIntire's bid for re-election was endorsed by a number of newspapers such as The Seattle Times, The Tacoma-News Tribune, and The Olympian..
Licensed C.P.A. and financial adviser Sharon Hanek (D) ran a successful write-in campaign for State Treasurer in the primary election on August 7th, earning herself a place on the general election ballot alongside McIntire. Hanek's write-in victory marks the first time in three decades that a statewide candidate cleared the 1% vote rule required of top-two primary write-in candidates to advance to the general election. She earned over 31,000, coming to 3.4%, of the votes.
Hanek's campaign emphasizes her accounting background and experience helping fellow conservative candidates manage their campaign finance reports. The self-styled “Christian conservative,” has cited introducing more "meaningful transparency" and overhauling the state's standardized testing system as central issues of her campaign.
|Candidates for State Auditor|
Incumbent Brian Sonntag (D) is retiring from the position of state auditor after almost 20 years in office. State Auditors in Washington have not been ones to give up their positions easily - since 1933 only three people have held the office. Vying to replace Sonntag for the evidently plumb job this fall are Troy Kelley (D) and James Watkins (R), the top two finishers from the August 7th primary election.
The race has been fraught with negativity. In the October 14th endorsement piece from The Seattle Times editorial board, their recommendation of Kelley for the position (after having supported Watkins in the primary) was less than enthusiastic. Below the headline, the board admonished: "The tactics used in the campaign to replace popular state auditor Brian Sonntag indicate neither candidate is up to the task of rooting out waste and fraud." The latest Washington poll from Elway Research Institute showed Kelley leading Watkins by 5 percentage points, but with more than 1 in 3 likely voters reporting as still undecided, it is still anyone's game.
Most of the ugliness arose from Watkins' decision to post court records from lawsuits Kelley was involved in before becoming a legislator on the internet. The website, factcheckkelley.com, was set up by the Watkins campaign to discredit Kelley. In 2010, Watkin's employed the same strategy during his unsucessful congressional campaign against 2012 gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, the website then titled factcheckjayinslee.com. Watkins' argument that Kelley is ethically unfit for the state auditor job, as exhibited on the website and in a September 27th endorsement interview with The Seattle Times is a lawsuit from 2010 wherein one of Kelley's former clients-an escrow company called Old Republic Title which hired Kelley’s firm "to handle some of the back-end mechanics of closing a real estate transaction"-accused Kelley of misappropriating roughly $1.2 million in customer fees. The lawsuit was filed for a "breach of contract." No criminal charges were ever filed. During the deposition, attorney for the plaintiffs Scott Smith brought up a series of wire transfers that Kelley had authorized in 2008. Financial records obtained by subpoena revealed that Kelley held a since closed offshore account in Belize, to which Kelley had linked an account. Kelley stated that California tax attorney Alan Eber, whom he hired for estate planning services, was responsible for the account in Belize. Kelley said that when he discovered the existence of the offshore account, he closed it, although his signature appears on international wire paperwork establishing the link to the Belize account. Kelley defended that the Old Republic case, which was settled for an undisclosed amount, as a routine, "nuisance lawsuits," an occupational hazard of handling property funds compounded by the mortgage crisis. “All of my accounting and estate planning decisions ... have been fully compliant with the law. Any assertion or implication to the contrary is simply incorrect.”
Troy Kelley is a Democratic state representative, holding the District 28a seat since 2007. Kelley's re-election to the House in 2010 made headlines as he spent the most per vote of all of the 237 candidates who ran. Early in his career, Kelley led audit teams at the Securities and Exchange Commission and did audits at First American Title Insurance Company. His plans for the office, as outlined on his official campaign website, include enhancing the office's cyber security, assisting in the successful implementation of Obamacare, and transparency. "I would promote government transparency at all level and look at executive request legislation to promote transparency in our government and public access to our government," he said.
In the primary, James Watkins was the only Republican to make a bid for the auditor's seat, as well as the only candidate not currently serving in the state legislature. Watkins works for Microsoft as a Manager and Business Development Consultant. He previously worked as a troubleshooter for the Federal Deposit insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 1991-1995. Earlier in the year he was running in the 2012 election for the U.S. House, representing Washington's 1st District., but withdrew in January. The central themes of Watkins' campaign have been fraud prevention, government transparency, as well as protecting the independence of the auditor's office. On his campaign site, Watkins asserts: "In recent years, the legislature has repeatedly attacked the Auditor’s Office in an attempt to strip funding and erode the Auditor’s independence. And they’ve been successful, stripping $23 million from the funds we voted to give the Auditor for performance audits, using it instead to fund more tax audits of businesses."
|Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction|
First elected in 2008, incumbent Randy Dorn is seeking re-election this year to the statewide nonpartisan position of Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dorn, a lifelong resident of Washington state, taught at the elementary and middle school levels and was an elementary and high school principal. He served in the Washington House of Representatives for seven years. In 1999, he became executive director of Public School Employees of Washington.
Out of the five candidates who competed in the primary race on August 7, 2012, Dorn was the only candidate who raised money to support his campaign. He had hoped to defeat all four by a wide enough margin to avoid a general election, but was ultimately unsuccessful in that endeavor. Ronald Higgins, a retired engineer who works as a substitute teacher, won enough votes to advance to the general election ballot.
Higgins' principle intention for the office is to enable the return of teaching civics in the classroom. Not expecting to win, he stated, "Hopefully someone will plagiarize all my good ideas."
|Candidates for Insurance Commissioner|
- See also: Washington down ballot state executive elections, 2012
- Mike Kreidler (D) Incumbent
- John R. Adams (R)
Democratic Washington Commissioner of Insurance Mike Kreidler was first elected in 2000 and re-elected to subsequent four-year terms in 2004 and 2008. He faces perennial Republican candidate John R. Adams in the 2012 general election.
Adams previously sought the office of Insurance Commissioner in 2004 and 2008. Kriedler defeated Adams in the 2008 general election by a margin of 61.4% to 38.6%. Adams has said he wants to bring in more insurance carriers in order to increase competition and give customers more choices.
|Candidates for Public Lands Commissioner|
Incumbent Democrat Peter Goldmark was first elected as Washington Commissioner of Public Lands in 2008, winning by just over 1 percent of the vote. Seeking his second term in office, it initially looked like Goldmark would sail through the election without major party opposition, but two hours before the filing deadline Republican Clint Didier threw his hat into the ring.
Didler, a rancher and former NFL player, is a favorite of the Tea Party. Regarding the office he stated, "This is way too important to be mismanaged. These lands are not being managed in a husband-like manner. We are not producing optimum revenues for school systems."
- Ballotpedia's 2012 Regional Ballot Measure Breakdown Series: Northwest region
- Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Washington State Legislature
- Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Washington Congressional Seats
- Ballotpedia:2012 general election preview articles
- November 6, 2012 election results
- State executive official elections, 2012
- Ballotpedia:Statewide projections for the November 6, 2012 elections
- Washington state executive official elections, 2012
- Washington down ballot state executive elections, 2012
- Washington gubernatorial election, 2012
- Washington lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012
- Washington secretary of state election, 2012
- Washington attorney general election, 2012
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