We endorse: McCarthy for state auditor, Davidson for treasurer, Ferguson for AG

From the Editorial Board

The News Tribune endorses (from left) Pat McCarthy for Washington state auditor, Duane Davidson for treasurer and Bob Ferguson for attorney general.
The News Tribune endorses (from left) Pat McCarthy for Washington state auditor, Duane Davidson for treasurer and Bob Ferguson for attorney general. Courtesy

Here’s some good news for anyone weary of the same cast of characters locking down the top elected seats in Olympia year after year, like lawn chair squatters at a holiday parade.

All of Washington’s statewide executive posts are up for grabs this fall, and five of the nine are wide open, with no incumbents blocking the way. That means state government will be refreshed with several new leaders, even as voters may choose to stick with a few proven officeholders for four more years.

Today we begin with our endorsements for three of the nine posts: auditor, treasurer and attorney general. Voters can rest assured the first two jobs will be left in competent hands after the departures of Auditor Troy Kelley and Treasurer Jim McIntire. Meanwhile, attorney general is one of the offices where the current tenant is running again, and we strongly recommend he be reelected.

The race for state auditor has Democrat Pat McCarthy, the term-limited Piece County executive, squaring off against Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia, a 16-year legislator. Either will be a more credible waste-and-fraud monitor than Kelley, irreparably damaged during his one and only term by a federal indictment tied to his real estate business. The auditor holds thousands of governments accountable for financial discipline, quality performance and public transparency.

We throw our support to McCarthy, of Tacoma, not just because she would retain a voice from the 253 in the state executive chorus, but because she manages a government with a workforce and budget considerably larger than the auditor’s office — and does it effectively. She also ran a tight ship in her last job as Pierce County auditor (although that chief-elections officer job has more in common with secretary of state than with state auditor).

McCarthy’s record is not without blemishes, including clumsy handling of a doomed $127 million county administration building proposal. But she’s shown independence and backbone standing up to other county officials — traits necessary for the state’s lead watchdog. She also could restore auditor staff morale, decimated during Kelley’s tenure, better than her opponent could.

Miloscia, of Federal Way, boasts hands-on auditing experience in the Air Force, nonprofit and private sectors, and as a legislative committee chairman. But he’s antagonized stakeholders with ill-timed rhetoric, and has steered his campaign in a strange direction with a recent focus on homelessness.

In the treasurer contest, voters already made one thing certain: the state’s next chief banker and financial officer will be a Republican. That two GOP candidates advanced in the top-two primary in a left-leaning state represents a historic anomaly.

Despite their shared party, Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson and private sector financial professional Michael Waite are a study in contrasts.

Davidson is a laid-back, steady-as-she-goes Tri-Citian in his 16th year managing a moderate-sized county investment and debt portfolio. He’s president of the state county treasurers’ association and is well versed in the constraints of government, such as living within the 1-percent annual property-tax cap.

Waite is a lean-forward, full-steam-ahead Seattle investment firm vice president, originally from Australia, with an intensity befitting his stint as a pro tennis player. His company handles billions of dollars in clients’ private assets, and his former company managed Bill Gates’ wealth. He’s never held a government post, elected or otherwise.

Both men could contribute to the treasurer’s office, but Davidson’s public-sector resume affords a more nuanced grasp of the issues and a big-picture respect for the public trust. He has worked closely with municipal and state officials, and has been endorsed by top Senate leaders from both parties. He also would give Eastern Washington a rightful place in the Capitol’s executive hierarchy.

Waite’s strengths, including a high-yield investing acumen, are narrow but sharp. If the treasurer’s role were limited to the state Investment Board, he might’ve had the edge.

Last but not least, for Washington attorney general, there’s no doubt Democratic incumbent Bob Ferguson should be given a second term. Critics might not like the activist bent he’s brought to an office charged with dispensing dispassionate legal counsel. (“If I think something is wrong and I see a path to make it right, I will follow it,” the northeast Seattle resident told our editorial board, reflecting on his new plan for an assault-weapons ban.)

But we like how Ferguson has beefed up the AG’s civil rights and consumer protection units, kept up the good fight for government sunshine (including harsher penalties for open-records violators), and gone after big hitters including Comcast, CenturyLink and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Opponent Joshua Trumbull, a Libertarian, is an earnest lawyer practicing in Arlington, mostly representing homeowners in the throes of foreclosure. He is in no way prepared to lead the state’s largest law office and its 600 attorneys.