Former Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy appears to be on track to keep the position of Washington State Auditor in Democratic hands, four years after taking over from convicted successor Troy Kelley, NPI’s research has found.
48% of likely Washington State voters surveyed on October 14th and 15th say they’re voting for McCarthy’s reelection, while 34% say they’re supporting her Republican opponent Chris Leyba. 18% of those surveyed were not sure.
The contest for Auditor is one of the quietest downballot races this year. Little has been written or said about it, perhaps owing to the fact that McCarthy’s tenure in the office has been free of scandal or palace intrigue, unlike her predecessor.
Here are the numbers again and the exact question we asked:
QUESTION: The 2020 candidates for State Auditor are Democrat Pat McCarthy and Republican Chris Leyba. Who are you voting for?
- Pat McCarthy: 48%
- Chris Leyba: 34%
- Not sure: 18%
Our survey of six hundred and ten likely 2020 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, October 14th through Thursday, October 15th.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines and text message answers from cell phone only respondents.
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level.
The position of Auditor is one of nine independently elected statewide offices in Washington’s executive department. Here’s how the role is defined in the Constitution, Washington State’s plan of government:
The auditor shall be auditor of public accounts, and shall have such powers and perform such duties in connection therewith as may be prescribed by law. He shall receive an annual salary of two thousand dollars, which may be increased by the legislature, but shall never exceed three thousand dollars per annum.
– Article III, Section 20
The auditor’s office audits state and local public agencies both for financial health and for performance; as noted in the above citation, the Legislature has the ability to define the office’s powers and duties by statute.
The Everett Herald characterized McCarthy as having “quickly righted the office of some four hundred auditors and other employees and restored morale” in its endorsement of her, adding: “McCarthy has shown able stewardship of her office, which in return has helped assure good stewardship of public finances.”
Against McCarthy, who has the advantage of being from Pierce, the state’s biggest swing county, Republicans have put up Chris Leyba, a felony crimes detective with the King County Sheriff’s office, who is certified as a law enforcement auditor.
Like Kim Wyman, Leyba believes the office he aspires to should be made “nonpartisan”, but, curiously, he is running as a Republican, with the “proud support” of Republican Party organizations all over the state, as well as right wing talk radio hosts like John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur (Wilbur is a former party chair.)
On his website, Leyba lists his other priorities as ordering a performance audit of Washington’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and eliminating the office’s legislative director position. That’s about the extent of his vision for the position.
Here’s Leyba’s video pitch for the job:
McCarthy, on the other hand, has a record of accomplishments to run on, as well as experience running Pierce County to draw on. Her pitch to voters could be summarized as keep me on the job as your effective watchdog.
She envisions a more flexible, dynamic agency made possible by employees working remotely from home — a shift driven primarily by the pandemic.
Here’s McCarthy’s video pitch for the job:
Washington’s editorial boards are enthused about what McCarthy has gotten done during the past four years. Several have written glowing editorials urging that she receive another term, including The Herald of Everett (linked above), The Columbian of Vancouver, The Seattle Times, and the News Tribune of Tacoma.
Voting in the 2020 presidential election is currently in progress and is set to conclude on November 3rd, 2020 at 8 PM Pacific in Washington State.