This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
With state Attorney General Rob McKenna running for governor and state Auditor Brian Sonntag retiring, voters have to fill their big shoes Nov. 6.
The attorney general contest presents a particularly tough choice. Democrat Bob Ferguson of Seattle and Republican Reagan Dunn of Maple Valley are about as evenly matched as two candidates could be. Both are moderate, personable attorneys who serve on the King County Council – Ferguson since 2003, Dunn since 2005.
They’re not far apart on most of the important issues, and both have shown independent streaks with their willingness to buck their parties. Most notably, Dunn risked conservative backlash with his support for same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
While either man would be a worthy successor to McKenna, we give the edge to Dunn. He has a broader legal background; he has served as a federal prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience. And this bluer-than-blue state needs the kind of political balance Dunn offers as a moderate Republican.
Our top choice for auditor – state Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way – unfortunately didn’t make it through the August primary. Voters are left to choose between state Rep. Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, and Republican James Watkins, a Redmond management consultant. They’re waging a nasty fight for a position that calls for nonpartisan equanimity.
Kelley has challenged Watkins’ claims of political independence by citing his tea party ties in an unsuccessful 2010 congressional race. And Watkins has made much of some eyebrow-raising business transactions by Kelley, including the fact that he parked money in an offshore account and settled an acrimonious lawsuit last year out of court.
Watkins has a history of performing audits in both the private and public sectors. And Sonntag – a Democrat – has said that he “is particularly well qualified based on his experience and background.” He also doesn’t have a lot of drama surrounding his professional résumé.
Watkins gets our endorsement, but this race makes us wish more than ever that Sonntag weren’t stepping down.