Résumés touted in race to be state auditor
Of all the 237 candidates who ran for state House in 2010, none spent more than Troy Kelley. His re-election cost nearly $10 per vote.
Now the Tacoman is trying to jump to a new job – state auditor, Washington’s government watchdog – and winning statewide could be even tougher and more expensive than in the Pierce County communities Kelley represents. This time, two fellow Democratic lawmakers stand in his way.
The more liberal Craig Pridemore of Vancouver has sewn up the backing of much of the Democratic base that has sometimes been frustrated by centrist, cautious Kelley and socially conservative Mark Miloscia of Federal Way. The sole Republican in the race, James Watkins, predicts Pridemore will win the Aug. 7 primary election to face him.
The wild card, though, might be Kelley’s bank account.
“He has some deeper pockets, so I think that’s really the variable here, is whether he’s going to put personal cash in this race,” said Jason Bennett, a Seattle political consultant who was Kelley’s treasurer in his first race for the House in 2006 but isn’t working for any of the candidates.
Kelley says he would spend some of his own money if he needs it to get the word out.
“I think anyone can come out of the pack with a hard charge at the end,” he said. “That’s what I think we’ll do.”
Either way, the sitting lawmakers come with access to interest groups and other donors from past campaigns. Pridemore told King County Democrats he has a fundraising goal of $300,000. Kelley said that’s in the ballpark of what he wants to raise.
It’s shaping up to be the most expensive campaign on record for auditor. That statistic doesn’t say much, though. Campaigns have been low-budget affairs during Brian Sonntag’s five terms.
AUDIT EXPERIENCE VITAL?
All the candidates invite voters to judge them on their résumés.
Watkins is a Redmond management consultant who says he has done more than 150 performance audits or assessments of private companies, nonprofits and government agencies.
Miloscia says he audited contractor performance during his military career, examining where the Pentagon was overpaying for light bulbs, toilet seats and the like. More recently, he has volunteered for a national program that does quality audits. His priorities, if elected, include an audit of the governor’s budget office.
Kelley, a National Guard lieutenant colonel, says he led audit teams as a young attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission and did performance audits at First American Title Insurance Co., which made him an executive before he left and started his own company to track documents such as title to property.
Pridemore reviewed audits, rather than conducted them, when he ran the operations of an accounting firm and in the audit committee of the Legislature, which he and Kelley have both led. But he said he would have 250 auditors working in his office.
“They don’t need another auditor. What they need is someone with strong leadership and management skills,” said Pridemore, who worked as finance manager for the Clark County Department of Public Works before his election as a county commissioner.
Watkins says he would be a champion of open government, chiding his opponents for supporting legislation to allow courts to levy no fee against government agencies that improperly withhold records.
Watkins also criticizes the Democrats for voting for budget legislation grabbing money from the fund that pays for the voter-approved performance audits.
Of the trio of lawmakers, Miloscia has the longest history as a champion of programs to measure government performance. That’s his pet issue, and he has been a critic of how they have been run by Gov. Chris Gregoire’s administration.
But he and Pridemore both have some misgivings about being too aggressive as an auditor.
“You don’t improve organizations by being a bull in a china shop,” Miloscia said in a debate put on by the Freedom Foundation. He warns against “gotcha” audits.
And Pridemore, while he praises Sonntag, also told King County Democrats in a questionnaire that one of the most pressing issues facing the auditor is “the impression that the state auditor’s office is out of control and is in pursuit of political agendas.”
He told Democrats at their state convention that the auditor should neither “defend governments that don’t strive to be accountable to their citizens” nor “harass or undermine governments that are striving to do their best in an era of declining resources, in an era of increasing tea-party misrepresentations.”
Sonntag has had a knack for making headlines and a reputation for taking on his own party – most recently by endorsing Republican Rob McKenna for governor. He has kind words for Watkins, and to a lesser extent Kelley and Miloscia, but offers neither praise nor criticism for Pridemore – except to say that attempts to raid his budget and criticize his audits came most often from Senate Democrats.
CROSSING THE AISLE
Kelley has voted with Republicans on some issues, including against the 2010 budget and package of tax increases. He said at the state convention he’s been under a “constant barrage of attacks” from within his party since declaring for auditor.
“Yes, I represent a district that’s very difficult for a Democrat,” Kelley told convention delegates, but his centrist voting record “helps keep us in the majority.”
He pointed out he stood with Democrats this year in favor of same-sex marriage – a position he kept closely guarded until it was time to vote – and he highlighted his proposal to step up penalties on Internet payday lenders. If elected, Kelley proposes a review of whistle-blower laws that he says aren’t working, pointing to retribution taken against employees in Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam’s office.
Miloscia also complains about attacks from other Democrats. He says although same-sex marriage and abortion have nothing to do with being an auditor, his conservative Catholic views on those issues seem to make him unwelcome in the party.
Not that his social views are the only ways Miloscia has opposed some in his party. He stood with Tim Eyman in pushing for performance audits of government programs, which voters approved, and he mounted a challenge to Speaker Frank Chopp for leadership of House Democrats that never gained momentum.
Still, he’s a fierce union supporter, and promised Democrats he would “make heroes of public employees” as auditor by improving government’s performance and reputation. He calls for better management, not privatization.
“Anybody that says they need to privatize something is telling me they don’t know how to manage,” Miloscia said in an interview.
But he has split labor support with Pridemore, who highlights his support for the full Democratic Party platform as a contrast with his opponents. He has pushed for caps on greenhouse-gas emissions and supported same-sex marriage. Pridemore also criticizes the state’s array of tax breaks and calls for the auditor to play a role in encouraging action in reducing them.
Pridemore won the endorsements of the state party and some of its key allies, including the regional Planned Parenthood, the teachers’ union and local Service Employees International Union chapters.
Watkins, who like Pridemore has run unsuccessfully for Congress, may be able to paint his opponent as an Olympia insider no matter who it turns out to be.
“It’s going to be between me and a sitting politician,” Watkins said.
CANDIDATES FOR STATE AUDITOR
Occupation: Owner of a document-tracking company.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of California, Berkeley; Master of Business Administration and Juris Doctor, State University of New York, Buffalo.
Civic experience: State representative, 28th Legislative District, 2007-present. Past chairman, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.
Total raised/spent*: $107,584, $12,955.
Top donors: Renee Henning of Tacoma, $3,600; Carol A. Kelley of Rowland Heights, Calif., $3,600; Harold L. Kelley of Rowland Heights, $3,600; Diane D. Kelley of Tacoma, $3,600; Eric Henning of Tacoma, $1,800; Ironwood Mortgage of University Place, $1,800.
Residence: Federal Way.
Occupation: Substitute teacher, Federal Way School District when Legislature not in session.
Education: Engineering, Air Force Academy; Master of Business Administration, University of North Dakota; master’s degree in clinical psychology, Chapman University.
Civic experience: State representative, 30th Legislative District, 1999-present; chairman, House Audit Committee; Lakehaven Utility District Commissioner.
Total raised/spent*: $61,286, $29,470.
Top donors: Joseph Miloscia of St. Louis, $3,200; Mary Miloscia of St. Louis, $3,200; Angela Connelly of Tacoma, $1,800; John Connelly, $1,800; Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 44, $1,800; United Association of Plumbing, $1,800.
Occupation: State senator, 49th Legislative District.
Education: Bachelor’s in political science, University of Washington.
Civic experience: State senator, 49th Legislative District, 2005-present; current chairman, Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee; Clark County commissioner, 1999-2005.
Total raised/spent*: $120,254, $43,167.
Top donors: Campaign for Tribal Self Reliance, $1,800; Columbia United Providers, $1,800; Justice for All PAC, $1,800; Washington State Council of County and City Employees, $1,800; Avista Corp., $1,600; Community Health Network of Washington, $1.600.
Occupation: Business development consultant
Education: Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration, George Washington University.
Civic experience: Candidate for Congress in 2010.
Total raised/spent*: $48,770 (including $20,000 loan), $11,230.
Top donors: Michael Dunmire of Woodinville, $1,250; Phyllis Dunmire of Woodinville, $1,250; Duane Alton of Liberty Lake, $1,000; William Conner of Bellevue, $1,000; Cascade Republican Women, $500; Gregory Porter of Bellevue, $500. * As of July 3, source Washington Public Disclosure Commission.