Election Guide: Kitsap County Auditor

Realtor John Clark (R), versus Incumbent County Auditor Walter E. Washington (D).

Last year, few people cared about the Kitsap County Auditor, or knew what functions the office performed.

Karen Flynn had held the office since 1986, presiding over the transition of paper ballots to computer vote counts, among other innovations. Flynn”s retirement in March has prompted a pitched battle for her replacement, along with an examination of the efficiency of the office and whether its function needs redefinition.

Clark, 53, is a real estate broker from North Kitsap who claims extensive political experience but is running for office for the first time. Washington, 63, worked for King County for several years and was hired as Flynn’s deputy in 2007.

Both live in Poulsbo.

By state law, Flynn”s replacement was chosen by the Kitsap County commissioners after a recommendation by the Democratic Party.

Washington, Flynn’s deputy, coasted in and it appeared he would be unopposed in his bid to fill Flynn’s unexpired term (the winner will need to run again in 2010) until Clark came out of nowhere three days before the filing deadline.

Clark built his campaign on increased accountability of the voter lists. He opposes all-mail voting, although he admits he will probably not be able to reverse the process that has been in effect since 2005.

He wants to tighten up voter requirements, or at least enforce them more consistently. Washington advocates increased voter outreach and stresses his experience in performing all aspects of the Auditor’s Office — voting, documents, licensing

Clark has challenged Washington on personal and professional levels. He maintains the Auditor’s office has not followed state law by not controlling the budgeting process. Instead, Kitsap County’s budget is handled through the county commissioners’ office as with other larger counties.

This argument is expected to continue, regardless of the winner.

Clark has also criticized Washington’s abilities, saying that he is careless and sloppy. Part of this was borne out after Washington was fined $300 (with $200 suspended) for the late filing of several financial disclosure reports.

Washington has dismissed most of Clark’s criticisms as insignificant and says he is the best qualified candidate.

“This is a very important office,” Clark said. “The average voter doesn’t have confidence in the system. People want to cast their votes and get a fast, accurate result that reflects how many votes each candidate receives. As I talk to people around the county they do not feel this is the case. I am a fiscal conservative and am for saving money whenever possible. But when it comes to something as basic as our right to vote, we shouldn’t use saving money as an excuse to change the process.”

“There are people on the far left and people on the far right who will vote for a D or an R no matter what,” Washington said. “But there are so many people in the middle who don’t know who I am. That’s why I like doorbelling, because it gives people the opportunity to answer questions and let people know who you are. Once people meet me and find out what my experience is and what I stand for, it’s a no-brainer for them to vote for me. Everything that I have done in my life leads up to this point.”

Washington is endorsed by County Commissioners Josh Brown and Steve Bauer, Sheriff Steve Bauer and King County Executive Ron Sims. Clark is supported by Kitsap County Association of Realtors but has not sought any high profile endorsements "because it takes too much time to get them and they don”t add that much value."

Web sites: johnclarkforauditor.com; www.washingtonforauditor.com

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