Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vote for Sherril Huff - Keep wise management at the helm of King County Elections

In just nine days, King County will hold a very important special election to determine who will be at the helm of King County Elections for roughly the next two years. This special election, which has received scant attention amidst the coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration and the legislative session (now in progress) is our first countywide vote by mail only election.

We're having this special election because the people of King County voted last November in favor of a right wing ballot measure, Charter Amendment 1, which created the position of an elected Director of Elections.

(We at NPI opposed the charter amendment because we believe jobs like this - which require professional skills - should be appointed rather than elected. But the amendment passed, so now we've got to deal with the consequences).

Six candidates are running in what is a free-for-all election with no primary. The person with the most votes - and it may not be an outright majority - will assume the office of Director of Elections. The field includes two Republicans - David Irons, who challenged Ron Sims for County Executive in 2005 and lost, and Pam Roach, the brazen Republican legislator from the 31st District who is one of Tim Eyman's favorite allies. Neither of them has experience running elections.

Then there's Julie Kempf, who used to work at King County Elections in 2003. She was fired for for lying about the late mailing of absentee ballots and violating state law. She was accused of forging documents to ensure the blame fell on other employees, although she was never charged.

And there's Chris Clifford, the teacher turned activist who launched a recall against Seattle Port Commissioner Pat Davis. (After the Supreme Court decided the recall was valid, Davis announced she would retire from the Commission in 2009). Clifford has no experience in elections and is rather brash in person.

Former financial services manager Bill Anderson is also running. He believes his background in banking will help him run King County Elections, but at a recent candidate forum hosted by the King County Democrats, Anderson's lack of knowledge about elections was plainly evident.

His response to at least half a dozen questions was to defer to Sherril Huff, the current appointed Director of Elections, who has been in charge since 2007.

Huff herself is the sixth candidate in the race and easily the most qualified.

She has a rich background in local government in Kitsap County. She also knows how to manage elections - she was twice elected by the people of Kitsap County to be their Auditor. Huff is endorsed by the Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, King County Executive Ron Sims, and Jason Osgood, the 2008 Democratic nominee for Secretary of State.

We're honored to support her as well with the NPI Advocate's endorsement.

King County Elections has come a long way since the 2004 gubernatorial recount exposed a slew of problems. Under Huff's leadership, the department has moved into a centrally located secure facility in Renton, the number of ballots with unmatched signatures in recent elections has plummeted, and accountability has been vastly strengthened. Huff's calm demeanor has been readily evident in all the major debates that have been held so far.

She speaks plainly and communicates well - I interviewed her recently and was very impressed with how she responded to my questions.

Given that none of Huff's competitors are ready for the job, choosing to retain her is one of the most important votes we can collectively cast this year.

On Tuesday, February 3rd, let's make a smart decision by keeping Sherril Huff at the helm of King County Elections.


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