The race for Washington state treasurer is disappointingly partisan this year.
Incumbent Duane Davidson, a former Benton County treasurer and a Republican, is challenged by Mike Pellicciotti, a Federal Way Democrat and assistant attorney general who has been an outstanding legislator.
Davidson should be elected to another term because he has much more experience. That and the continuity he offers will help Washington as it works through a severe revenue crisis.
This is one of two races where the state Democratic Party is fiercely fighting to displace the only two Republicans holding statewide office. In both races, the Republicans — Davidson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman — are effective and deserve to be reelected.
What makes it painful is that Democratic challengers in those races, Pellicciotti and Gael Tarleton, will be sorely missed in the Legislature. Both are ceding their House seats to run.
Parties aside, the incumbent Republicans are vastly more qualified for the position. Davidson is a certified public accountant who served four terms as the Benton County treasurer before he was elected to the state office in 2016.
Pellicciotti has experience handling financial fraud in the Attorney General’s Office, but that’s not the same as running a public treasury office.
Pellicciotti’s campaign has a sharp edge. He’s taking Davidson to task for sending deputies to some key meetings, including the Washington State Investment Board. He also called out Davidson’s office for being slow to produce public records — Davidson’s calendars — showing that he was attending political-party events instead.
This is good pressure to bring on an incumbent. Davidson said the records were complicated to produce, because of the format of his calendar and the need to redact private information. He’s on notice that these records should be saved in a way that makes them promptly available.
The attendance question is less clear. One former state treasurer, Mike Murphy, told this board Davidson should have attended, and he’s not endorsing Davidson this time, after endorsing him in 2016.
Another former treasurer, Dan Grimm, said it’s perfectly reasonable and in some cases better to have deputies with expertise attend certain meetings in place of the elected official. Both Grimm and Murphy are Democrats.
Voters can make their own call. This board calls the attendance issue a toss up, and gives Davidson the edge because he’s done a perfectly fine job running the office and has much more experience tending treasuries.
While it’s fine for Democrats to pursue a full sweep of Washington government, it’s better for the state to have at least some diversity in its executive offices. This will be especially valuable as the Legislature and governor — both presumably controlled by Democrats in 2021 — grapple with revenue declines and proposals to enact a variety of new taxes.
All of these changes have a bearing on the state’s credit rating and the government’s cost of borrowing. The treasurer’s outside perspective on these issues will be important, and it’s better to have one who doesn’t face party pressure to be sycophantic.
That said, Davidson hasn’t been very outspoken, and Pellicciotti has an admirable streak of party independence.
Davidson said this will be his last term, if reelected. Perhaps that will unleash some fervor. He no doubt will be more diligent about fulfilling public records and clearer about attendance decisions.
Pellicciotti is ambitious and accomplished as a public attorney and legislator. Washingtonians would benefit from his continuing public service, but perhaps not as treasurer.
Elect Davidson to one more term as state treasurer.