Lineup for state auditor race: Anyone but Kelley

It seems pretty obvious Washington’s next state auditor won’t be the current one, Troy X. Kelley.

But then who might it be?

No candidate had stepped forward as of Wednesday morning, though Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia, of Federal Way, may do so before the week is out.

And that won’t be a shock. In fact, it’s overdue as Miloscia began recruiting himself when Kelley’s political career nose-dived earlier this year in a hailstorm of criminal charges.

Ever since federal agents searched Kelley’s Tacoma home in March then accused the first-term Democrat of a slew of white collar crimes, including tax evasion and money laundering, Miloscia has appeared driven to steer him out of office and position himself to become his successor.

Miloscia was one of the first soloists in a chorus of political leaders calling on Kelley to resign. And he’s used his position as chairman of the Senate Accountability and Reform Committee to keep the auditor’s alleged exploits in full view of the public.
Miloscia organized an April 1 hearing – no joke – and invited Kelley to testify. Kelley blew him off and Miloscia lamented about the damage to public confidence in the auditor’s office caused by the embattled auditor’s behavior.

It’s not personal. Miloscia is a by-the-rules guy. Throughout his tenure in the state House and now Senate he’s been a stickler for measuring the performance of government and embracing the need to make it efficient and effective. 

It’s not partisan. In 2012, Miloscia ran for state auditor as a Democrat and lost, badly.He finished fourth in the four-person primary. He watched Kelley advance to the general election and defeat Republican James Watkins.

This time the dynamics will be quite different. He enlisted in the Republican Party in 2014 and won his Senate seat. If Miloscia runs, he stands to be the best known and perhaps only GOP hopeful in the field in 2016.

On the Democratic side, the picture is far less clear. The party had three candidates in the 2012 primary and has none right now.

One name getting tossed around is Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell. He confirmed as much Tuesday.

“I’m looking at it but it’s too early to make a decision,” he said.

Stanford seems well-suited for the job that requires fact-checking the financial record-keeping of other public officials while not humiliating those whose errors you uncover.

He’s easygoing and blessed with a blend of numeric knowledge and legislative nerdism. He has a master’s in mathematics, a PhD in statistics and is vice-chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee which examines the inner workings of government bureaucracy.

Stanford is also vice-chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee, which is in transition. It needs a chairman since its longtime leader, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, is now at the helm of the House Appropriations Committee. If Stanford is offered the post, it probably dashes any chance of his running.

The leader of the state Democratic Party isn’t worrying about the lack of candidates.

“We’re looking at the race,” said state party chairman Jaxon Ravens. “We take all statewide races seriously and we will have a serious contender for this race.”

It should be obvious it won’t be Kelley.

credit: Everett Herald

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