In case you don’t recognize her name, it’s Sherril Huff who is running the King County elections department. Her charge? Make sure elections are run fairly and mistake-free.
Now she’s running another election – her own – to keep her job. It’s an election that she should win; much is at stake, including the implementation of reforms to ensure the county’s elections are no longer an embarrassment.
Huff has been at the forefront of those reforms, working quietly, with no other motive than to run a fair election. She was even a reluctant candidate for her job. We’re glad she decided otherwise.
Our concern is that name recognition will work against her.
Who hasn’t heard of state Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn? Or Chris Clifford of Renton? They are in the six-person field in the first-ever election for the county’s elections director. The election is entirely by mail and ballots must be postmarked no later than Feb. 3. Until now, the director was appointed by the county executive.
But mere name recognition doesn’t make either Roach or Clifford a good elections director. Besides, each already has a commitment to keep – senator Roach to the citizens of the 31st Legislative District, which includes Black Diamond, and citizen-activist Clifford to the students in the Orting School District, where he teaches.
Both were rated “adequate” for the job by the Municipal League of King County.
And just because a politician has run a personal campaign doesn’t mean he or she has the managerial skills to run a countywide election. Politicians talk policy; they leave the managing to someone else.
Still, if you feel that a politician has to run the elections division, then elect David Irons, a former County Council member with management experience. Like Huff, he was rated outstanding by the Municipal League.
The elections position is non-partisan, but Irons has always run as a Republican, and his chief campaigner seems to be Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna, who has made computerized phone calls for Irons. McKenna also served on the council.
Besides himself ($97,000 in personal funds, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission), Irons’ biggest contributor is the 5th District Republican Political Committee – $1,500. The Republican Party was incensed with the county’s elections division after the controversial, ultra-close loss of Republican Dino Rossi to Democrat Chris Gregoire in their first matchup for governor in 2004.
However, if you feel an elections professional has to run elections, then elect Huff. She has raised a fraction of Irons’ warchest, which includes $1,000 from the 47th District Democrats.
This job is really about managing people and keeping those onboard who have worked tirelessly in service to the ideal of a fair election. It’s about knowing how to run an intricate process using paper and computers and that is sometimes prone to human mistakes.
The task for the elections division has been defined. Now is the time to build upon the reforms that thoughtful citizens of King County have put together. The battle has been fought and won. It’s time to put rhetoric aside.
There is nothing wrong with vigilance at election time. Our democracy demands it. Now, let’s move forward. Huff can help lead the way.
Dean Radford is editor of the Renton Reporter.