Farewell, Sam, and Thanks for Your Service

Secretary of State Sam Reed announced his intentions not to run for a third term next year and, in doing so, enters the coda of a 35-year career as an elected official.

I’m not big on career politicians. In fact, I think we need to impose term-limits on all offices. The propensity for corruption or lack of commitment to the values one held when they first entered the snake pit that is elective politics seems to be just too great for many and they end up compromising too easily. Sam, however, is the all too rare exception and I think the fact that he’s been skewered by members of his own party as often as he has by the opposition is a good indicator of that.

I first befriended Sam in 2004 when he was running a relatively easy campaign for reelection and I was running a quixotic one in the Heartland of Liberalism, Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District. I was a bit more liberal back then, tepidly supporting things that many “Seattle Republicans” tend to and I suppose that may have helped to forge my admiration of Sam. But even as I have become significantly more conservative in my views while Sam’s have remained the same, I’ve continued to admire him and the service he has performed to this state. Do we agree on everything? No. But I will always jump to Sam’s defense because, throughout his career, he’s always been a beacon of civility, largely above the partisan fray, and more importantly, honest in upholding the law even when it meant allowing outcomes he would rather have seen reversed.

During that famous saga which was the aftermath of the 2004 gubernatorial race, Sam was nearly burned in effigy for certifying the results despite the shady business that went on in King County. While us Rossi supporters were greatly upset by the eventual outcome of that contest and all the shenanigans that helped elect Gregoire, Sam’s decision was not among them. Unfortunately, because of the way state law was written, it wasn’t his place to second guess, in a legal sense, what went on at King County Elections. It was simply to certify the results he was given, a rubber-stamp operation if you will. His hands were tied. And if the tables had been turned, if a Democratic Secretary of State had refused to certify an closely contested election with a Republican victor on the second recount, I’m sure quite a few Republicans would have been calling for him to “do his job”.

And if Sam hadn’t chosen to follow the law, the courts would have still ended up making the same decision but, in addition to not having Rossi as governor, the Republican party would have been embroiled in a scandal the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades (even if that scandal may have been largely trumped up on partisan grounds). No, Sam did the right thing. If we choose to play dirty then we are no better than those who we detest for doing so. A victory won at the cost of dishonesty is not a victory at all. If Nixon taught us nothing else he taught us that.

But not only did Sam do his job on that occasion despite a strong outcry from within his own party, before the dust had even settled he sought to make sure that the Dino Debacle wouldn’t happened again and introduced several pieces of legislation which alleviated many of the problems that had occurred.

And that is but a single example of countless good deeds he’s accomplished in the areas of elections, charity regulation and trade during his three and a half decades in public service.

We need more folks like Sam who realize that, ultimately, honesty and civility will rule the day. (And, incidentally, from what I’ve heard about the woman who seeks to fill his shoes, Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman, I’d say we’re in good hands.)

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in fantasyland (I wouldn’t be the political stripe I am if I did). Partisan sniping and mudslinging have been a mainstay of American politics since before we were a nation. My own ancestor, Congressman Roger Griswold, is famous for being the first legislator to engage in a physical altercation while on the floor of Congress, beating Congressman Matthew Lyon with his cane after the latter spit on him, a scene replicated in varying degrees and often during the early days of our nation and which make disagreements of today look downright innocent. But all of that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t applaud people like Sam for being the pillar of civility that he has been and seek to encourage our other elected officials, pundits and political operatives to do the same.

Good luck to you in your remaining year and a half in the corner office, Sam, and for the many years after during which I have no doubt you will continue to champion civility and good government in a more private role.

Sam’s Side of the Story

I’m a big fan of Tim Eyman. I’m also a big fan of Sam Reed. So when I read Tim’s post a few days ago I wanted to get Sam’s side of the story. Below is our email exchange, unedited.

The public record question does not go back 95 years. It goes back to 1972 when I-172 passed by 72% creating (among other things) our wide open public records act. Since that time, initiative and referendum petitions have been public records. But, when people came in to do a public record request, they learned that they would receive copies of thousands of petitions – and decided not to do it. In more recent years, we have been scanning in the petitions and storing them on CDs for security purposes. Now, it’s easier for a public record request. In recent years, we’ve had six of them and have provided the discs with no controversy.
As Rob [McKenna] points out, the petitions are not like a secret ballot. They sit out at super markets. People look over the other names when they sign. The signature gatherers make copies of the petitions. In other words, they are very public.
Also, Rob and I point out that constitutionally this is a legislative process. When one person signs, he/she is (in essence) sponsoring legislation. A legislator could not sponsor a bill and then have his/her name kept secret.

–Sam

P.S. Tim Eyman found one person, a former assistant Secretary of State, Don Whiting, who does not like the idea of them being public records. He worked for Ralph Munro. I asked Ralph is that was his position. He said no…….that he does not recall ever taking a position. Pam Floyd was the manager of the initiative/referendum operation when Don was the assistant Secretary of State. She said that the Attorney General’s Office and her superiors (in the Elections Division) told her the petitions were public records. So, she treated them that way.

He followed up with another email stating

Also, I have no idea what Eyman is talking about with us refusing to disclose anything. We’re waiting for the judge to decide whether to proceed. It’s not up to us. It’s up to him. …..We expected that to be the case.
And, by the way, you may have noticed that just ruled that he will not proceed until he finds out what the U. S. Supreme Court decides to do regarding the Referendum 71 petition public records case.
The attorneys Eyman is talking about work for Rob McKenna not for me. 

–Sam

Sam also addressed Tim’s statement about selling the lists for a profit. He stated

We are limited legally to what it costs us to produce it. We don’t have any choice. We are not a profit-making organization. Since costs of technology change rapidly, we are continually having to run the numbers.

He also sent me a link to the below article, detailing Judge Hick’s stay on Tim’s request last Friday.

As I said, I’m a big fan of Tim’s and I think he does a lot of great work. At times, though, he can get a bit overzealous; easy to do when one is demonized and is fighting an uphill battle. I’m guilty of it myself at times.

As for my opinion on the matter of releasing names overall, I tend to side with Sam. While it’s unfortunate that this matter has been greatly exacerbated by the actions of a group of hate-filled gay rights activists who sought the names to torment those who disagree with their views, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. By not allowing names to be released the potential for fraud is increased. And it’s not like Washington state’s record on election fraud is spotless. Instead we should address problems of harassment with laws already on the books. After all, we don’t outlaw guns because people are shot with them. We punish the people who are abusing that right to own guns.