Campaign Crawlers

Report From Washington-Florida

No one is calling Sam Reed Katherine Harris.

By 1.9.05

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SEATTLE -- By now the nation is dimly aware that Washington state is embroiled in a gubernatorial battle between a family man-real estate agent cum senator and a former attorney general and litigation queen. Although Washingtonians appear most concerned that the rest of the nation will begin referring to the state as the next Florida, there is a little gem that shines through the election, and that gem is named Sam Reed.

However, background information first.

Christine (Chris) Gregoire battled Dino Rossi in the closest race ever in Washington. For a state that went to Kerry in the presidential election, and that has not elected a Republican governor since 1980, Rossi's win by 261 votes was not only miraculous, it was grimly telling of how people feel about Gregoire.

Democrats are still sore about the Florida debacle of 2000, as we all know, and so it was hardly a surprise that after the mandatory recount (Washington state requires that a mandatory recount occur when the margin is less than 2,000 votes) with Rossi turning out 42 votes ahead, Gregoire demanded another statewide recount, this time by hand.

At the end of the hand recount, when it appeared that Rossi was ahead the third time, Gregoire obtained permission to count hundreds of rejected provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are those issued when, among other things, a voter turns up at the wrong precinct, is not previously registered to vote, or when a voter's legitimacy is in question. Some of those ballots were rejected because the voters' signatures were not on file -- an error discovered by a socially conscious Democratic King County Councilman.

THAT WAS THE STORY BEFORE Christmas, but now a new skirmish has erupted, and at the center of it is Secretary of State Sam Reed. Reed, a Republican, gave moderate concessions to both political parties during the election. When it appeared that Gregoire had won the hand recount by 129 votes out of 2.9 million, Reed certified her as Governor on December 30.

Naturally, some Republican voters and campaign workers took issue with a Republican Secretary of State certifying a Democrat in such a close race. However, rather than finding Reed's actions reprehensible or offensive, Republicans should be proud that they have a player on their team who is fair. By certifying Gregoire, Reed was doing his job -- a prospect which makes many politicians go catatonic. Incidentally, Reed also certified Rossi before the hand recount, but was forced to recertify after Rossi's win was overturned.

So, Reed is now in the Republican line of sight for the heinous act of certifying Gregoire as the Governor-elect. It appears that when a man is fair, he is hated by everyone, and loved by everyone. One Republican "friend" of Reed's wrote him a stinging letter: "How convenient to blame 'emotions' for the mass discontent within Republican ranks over your handling of the major legal issues in this gubernatorial recount,"

Reed takes the venom of his friends and supporters all in stride. "There are people who think I should be using the position of secretary of state simply to weigh the scales on the side of my own party. I just don't accept that, and it would not be proper." He also noted that, "The people who are friends and overall supporters of mine supported me because they viewed me as having the ability to rise above politics and do things right."

After certifying Gregoire, Reed admitted, "I do not feel like this has been a botched election," and then added, "I would not say I think somebody ought to be conceding at this point." Meaning, it seems, that in his opinion, Rossi still has a chance.

I can only imagine the twinkle in his eye.

Reed refused to cringe under the lawsuits of the Democratic left and under the reactionary bellowing of Washington State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance. Instead he faithfully went about his business as a public servant.

He also remained uniquely upbeat in the midst of the riotous accusations and doomsday moans issuing forth from both parties, and at one point stated, "Overall, this election process worked very well," and then added, "The rumors are far, far worse than the reality." In this season of whining, lawsuit slinging, and vitriolic backstabbing, how can Reed remain so steadfast?

RECENTLY REELECTED FOR his second term as Secretary of State, Reed immediately met the gubernatorial election debacle and countered it with a proposal for Washington State election reform, which included some practical changes:

• Absentee ballots must be postmarked the Friday before the election (currently absentee ballots can be postmarked on Election Day) thus eliminating the wait for straggling absentee ballots that can turn a close election at the last minute.

• Yearly election reviews.

• Notifying voters with missing or suspect signatures.

Washington state's gubernatorial circus might just be the proper catalyst for positive change. Currently it is only a soapbox for Gregoire and Rossi to stand on and scream about the problems within the system, although Gregoire seems to have less of a problem with the system now that she is the certified Governor Elect.

Rossi recently filed an "election contest" with the state Supreme Court to request a revote. Upon hearing about the possibility of a revote Gregoire declared that the idea was "absurd."

Although he continues to remain dutifully unbiased in this election, I have a feeling that Sam Reed is smiling right now. He knows, at least, that he is a lone wolf who has done his job.

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About the Author

Heather Roscoe writes from Washington state.