Six hoping to become King County elections director

  • Tue Jan 27th, 2009 3:16am
  • News

Ballots were received last week and Enumclaw-area voters are now charged with helping to select an elections director during a vote-by-mail process that will wrap up Feb. 3.

The six candidates for King County elections director squared off in a Seattle debate Jan. 15, making their case to lead a department historically plagued by mistakes.

The elections director was previously an appointed role until voters decided to make it a non-partisan elected office in November.

The list of candidates includes some familiar names.

The best-known name on the Plateau is likely Pam Roach, a Republican state senator from the 31st Legislative District who represents Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Auburn and parts of Pierce County.

She serves on the Senate Operations and Elections Committee, has shown strong support for the initiative process and was also a prime sponsor of the Help America Vote Act.

Her detractors have said she has a history of erratic and inappropriate behavior.

“I believe I’ve been very effective in the Senate, but I do think a change of venue for me would be good,” Roach said. “I have a very specific knowledge about elections that not many people do.”

Current King County Elections Director Sherril Huff joined the race after telling the media in December 2007 that she wouldn’t run if voters made her job an elected position.

One of the challengers, Orting School District English teacher Christopher Clifford, is challenging Huff’s eligibility in King County Superior Court and with the county Canvassing Board. He claims Huff doesn’t really live in the Seattle home that she recently began leasing.

All candidates for King County elections director must reside in the county.

Huff lived in Bremerton when she first landed her position, but changed her voter registration two days before filing for the race.

Candidate Julie Kempf has a deep understanding of how elections work and it shows in her ability to talk shop.

Kempf was the King County elections superintendent until 2002, but Executive Ron Sims fired her following errors with absentee ballots.

Internal reports indicated that Kempf lied about the mistake, although she claims to have passed along information that she believed to be true at the time.

“I didn’t perform enough due diligence on information that had been given to me before I gave it to the press,” Kempf said. “That’s a mistake I’m never going to make again in a public leadership position.”

Kempf said she unfairly took the rap for her boss at the time.

“I’m sad that I was scapegoated for what was a much larger problem,” she said.

Candidate David Irons is a former King County Council member ran an unsuccessful bid to unseat Sims in 2005. He’s a telecommunications entrepreneur who says his management experience will help him administer fair elections.

“This is a new office,” Irons said. “It’s all about experience, knowledge and proven leadership.”

Candidate Bill Anderson has a seemingly unblemished record, albeit untested.

He says his experience as a bank-industry executive and software engineer has given him the experience to manage ballot-counting more effectively than anyone else.

“I have experience handling very large number of checks, transactions, and people and callers,” Anderson said. “We need to have someone in the elections director position who has that kind of experience.”

The next elections director will make $146,000 per year, oversee a budget of more than $19 million and administer up to six elections a year.

Joshua Adam Hicks writes for the Bellevue Reporter.