Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthy
Washington State Auditor Pat McCarthyWashington State Auditor Pat McCarthy (Campaign photo)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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