Legislator hopes to oust secretary of state
Seattle Times staff reporter
Secretary of State Sam Reed is fighting for re-election against a well-financed opponent who criticizes everything from his position on the state's primary to the car he drives.
State Rep. Laura Ruderman, a Democrat from Kirkland, has raised more than $460,000 — the most of any challenger to a state-office incumbent this year — in her efforts to unseat Reed, the one-term Republican who has picked up virtually every newspaper endorsement, as well as nearly $600,000 in contributions.
Reed says Ruderman is unqualified; Ruderman says Reed, as the state's elections chief, should not have backed a ballot measure to change the way the state runs its primary elections.
"The referee does not wear the colors of one of the two teams," said Ruderman, criticizing Reed for his support of I-872, which calls for having the top two finishers in a primary advance to the general election, even if the candidates represent the same party.
Ruderman voted for a "top-two" system this year in the Legislature but won't say whether she supports I-872. She said the secretary of state, as the chief elections officer, should not take positions on initiatives.
Reed said he made it no secret he was a strong defender of the state's popular blanket primary, which was ruled unconstitutional, and sees I-872 as the closest alternative. Further, he argues it is his duty as secretary of state to let voters know how he stands on the issue.
Ruderman, 33, a New York native, moved to Seattle after graduating from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and taking a job at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. She said she wanted to be a stage manager, "but I found out it was a wonderful hobby when my parents supported me, but it didn't pay the bills."
She went to work for Microsoft and left that job in 1998 to run for the Legislature in a traditionally Republican district. She was an upset victor in the state House's 45th District after withdrawing from the 1st Congressional District race against Jay Inslee.
When she ran for re-election she was the only Democrat to win in East King County and the only Democrat to be re-elected in the 45th District.
Ruderman is leaving the Legislature to run for secretary of state, a job that pays $101,702 a year.
Reed, 63, was elected four years ago after serving five terms as Thurston County auditor. He was assistant secretary of state from 1969 to 1975 and is considered a moderate Republican — in the same mold as his popular predecessor, Ralph Munro.
As a legislator, Ruderman has worked on tax breaks for high-tech companies and laws to crack down on child pornography on the Internet and has sponsored legislation to toughen laws against identity theft.
Reed fought to save the Washington State Library, created the nation's first digital archives and said all voting machines must have a paper record by 2006 — something Ruderman claims he was slow to support.
Reed counters that he introduced legislation this year to mandate a ballot paper trail, but it died in the House Rules Committee, where Ruderman sits.
"She killed it to have an issue," he said.
Last July he adopted rules requiring the paper trail.
Ruderman's criticisms of Reed have been bolstered by the state Democratic Party, which has put more than $140,000 into her campaign, and filed a complaint with the state Executive Ethics Board claiming Reed used his state car for campaigning.
In the complaint, state party Chairman Paul Berendt enclosed photographs of Reed and his campaign manager with his state car in the parking lot of The Herald in Everett on Oct. 12, when Reed was interviewed by the paper's editorial board for his re-election campaign.
"The use of a state vehicle to transport a political candidate to and from campaign events is a violation of the state ethics laws," Berendt said. "The fact that Reed is being driven to and from campaign events by a nonstate employee in an official state car is an additional violation of Washington state law."
Reed called the complaint a "political ambush."
He said he was in Snohomish and King County on a two-day business trip, so took the office car. Only the editorial-board interview was not work-related.
"If that one appointment would have involved campaign materials, I would not have taken the car," Reed said. "In fact, Ruderman's staff must have been frustrated waiting for an opportunity because I usually drove my Subaru wagon or my wife's Toyota sedan to the other editorial boards."
Reed also said he has $75 taken out of his paycheck each month to pay for his personal use of the car.
"We expect more of this from Paul Berendt and Laura Ruderman who seem to duck the real issues in this campaign, such as will Laura Ruderman vote for or against Initiative 872," Reed said. "Instead of last-minute smear tactics, the voters deserve to know where both candidates stand on the important issues that matter."
Reed asserts Ruderman was pushed to run for the office by the state Democratic Party as a "vendetta" against his position on I-872. The parties oppose the initiative and sued to have the blanket primary declared unconstitutional.
Ruderman also filed a complaint with the state's Public Disclosure Commission, claiming Reed failed to meet deadlines for reporting the money he spent on television advertising.
Ruderman, who credits her passion for politics with her work lobbying for money for health care in the developing world, said she wants to make the Secretary of State's Office "a bully pulpit" to engage voters between elections.
She has criticized Reed for not pushing voter registration, although this year's registration has soared. She credits that to voter-registration groups, not Reed.
Reed says Ruderman is leveling charges against him because she's trying to hide the fact she has no elections experience.
Also running for secretary of state is Libertarian candidate Jacqueline Passey, 26, a senior in economics at Seattle University. She is vice chairwoman of the Libertarian Party of King County. She opposes Initiative 872.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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