Secretary of State Sam Reed, who saw Washington through its most turbulent gubernatorial election in history, announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election next year.

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OLYMPIA — Secretary of State Sam Reed, who saw Washington through its most turbulent gubernatorial election in history, announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election next year.

Reed, who took office in 2001, was in charge of elections in 2004 when Gov. Chris Gregoire beat Republican Dino Rossi by only 133 votes after two recounts and a court challenge.

Reed said he strove for neutrality during the highly charged contest, although his decisions angered some fellow Republicans. He said he hopes the person who replaces him will walk the middle road in politics.

“I hope that one of my legacies, and I worked to pass it on, is moderation in politics,” he said. “I believe in operating in the big middle of the electorate and not being to the far right or the far left. I think you get so much more done.”

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Reed said there was no single reason for his retirement when his third term ends in January 2013. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer last year, but said he underwent treatment and has been given a clean bill of health.

“Also, even though I’m going to be 72 the day after I’m through, it’s not age. Most of my family worked into their 80s and 90s. It’s really a case of this is the right time,” he said. “I’ve been an elected official for 35 years.”

He was Thurston County auditor for more than 20 years before becoming secretary of state.

Accomplishments Reed cited during his tenure include his advocacy for the state’s current top-two primary system, which was opposed by the state Republican and Democratic parties. In the top-two primary, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, move on to the general election.

Reed also championed the statewide vote-by-mail system. Washington is only the second state in the country to adopt one, according to his office. The Legislature earlier this year passed a bill that makes mail-in ballots the standard throughout the state. The bill targeted Pierce County, which had been the only county that still allowed both mail and poll voting.

Reed said he plans to back a Republican candidate to run for his office. “I’m very much a Republican and see myself endorsing a Republican,” he said.

He said Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman has approached him about running for the office, as well as some state legislators he would not name. State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, sent out a notice on Tuesday that he’s running for the job.

Reed, after the hard-fought 2004 gubernatorial election, noted that he was getting heat from his own party about the outcome.

“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 said at the time.

Chris Vance, who chaired the state Republican Party during the 2004 election, said Tuesday that “it’s pretty well established that those of us who were close to the Rossi campaign and the state party effort strongly disagreed with some of the decisions the secretary of state made” regarding such issues as whether certain ballots could be accepted and rules for the hand recount.

“It doesn’t mean I don’t love Sam Reed,” Vance said. “You can disagree with somebody and they’re still your friend.”

Paul Berendt, who chaired the state Democratic Party at the time, said Reed succeeded in being neutral during the election.

“He was far less partisan than I expected him to be,” Berendt said. “He’ll probably go down in history as the secretary of state who oversaw the stickiest wicket that we went through.”

After that race, Reed pushed for reforms to the state’s elections, cleaning up voter rolls, requiring new checks and balances for counties to make sure votes were counted properly and a law requiring the secretary of state to review county election procedures.

Material from The Associated Press and The Seattle Times archives was used in the story.

Andrew Garber: 360-236-8266 or

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