A former top aide to King County Assessor Lloyd Hara is now running against him. The challenge by longtime political operative John Arthur Wilson could spice up the usually overlooked down-ballot race.

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The normally snoozy race for King County assessor could get a jolt this fall, as incumbent Lloyd Hara has drawn a challenge from a former top aide – longtime local political operative John Arthur Wilson.

Wilson wants to move the often low-profile office in a more activist direction, for example, pushing changes in state law to provide property tax relief for senior citizens and looking at using boarded up vacant homes for low-income housing needs.

“I want to be an assessor that becomes a champion for housing across the economic spectrum and across the age spectrum,” Wilson said in an interview. “That means you have to think about the job a little differently.”

Hara has been assessor since 2009, when he won a five-way race to succeed Scott Noble, who resigned in disgrace after driving drunk the wrong way on Interstate 5, smashing into another car and injuring himself and two women. Noble was sentenced to eight months in jail for that incident.

Wilson worked for Hara’s office as chief deputy assessor for more than three years, before departing in 2013. “I basically ran the office on a day-to-day basis,” he said. Wilson says he resigned over “a difference in the direction that we wanted the department to go.”

The assessor’s primary job is to determine property values for more than 660,000 residential and commercial parcels in King County, which form the basis for property tax bills. The office employs more than 200 people. The nonpartisan office comes with a salary of about $170,000 a year.

Hara, a former Port of Seattle commissioner and Seattle city treasurer, ran unopposed for a four-year assessor term in 2011. He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday, but sounded an alarm about Wilson on his campaign website, warning of a challenger “whose heart is set on raising $250,000 and taking Lloyd out of office.” Hara has raised about $40,000 for his re-election bid so far.

Wilson said he doesn’t know if he’ll raise $250,000 for his campaign. But he comes to the race with decades of local political connections. He worked as an aide to former Gov. Gary Locke, former King County Executive Ron Sims and former Congressman Al Swift, and as a journalist for the Seattle Weekly, Seattle Times, and KING 5. Wilson has run his own public affairs and lobbying firm, Wilson Public Affairs, for the last several years.