Inslee camp deflects blame

Maybe it’s part of every campaign manager’s political playbook: When your candidate screws up, start pointing fingers in another direction.

Still, it takes no small amount of gall for campaign officials for Jay Inslee, the former congressman and now Democratic candidate for governor, to deflect blame for their own missteps toward Secretary of State Sam Reed.

To update: Inslee resigned his position as 1st Congressional District representative on March 20 in order to devote full time to the gubernatorial campaign (a decision we supported). The timing, or so his campaign believed, was late enough in the year to prevent the need for a special election to replace him, a process that could cost the state around $1 million.

Not so, it turns out. Upon review of the U.S. Constitution and state law, Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire determined she had no choice but to call a special primary in August, followed by a general election in November, to fill Inslee’s seat for the remainder of the year.

And because this is a year when congressional district lines were adjusted for population shifts, two separate races are required, one inside the old 1st District, another in the new (and substantially redrawn) one. Thousands of voters will have two congressional races on their August and November ballots. It’s up to the secretary of state’s office, which runs elections, to educate voters so they’ll understand the highly unusual situation.

Doing that through direct mail, the most effective way to communicate with such large numbers of voters, will cost $225,000, Reed estimates. Added to cost projections from auditors in Snohomish, King and Kitsap counties for running the special elections, the total bill comes to about $1 million.

Oops. That’s the kind of taxpayer sticker shock Inslee hoped to avoid. He has only himself to blame for not being clear about the process before resigning.

Yet on Monday, his campaign and the state Democratic Party brazenly sought to impugn the integrity of Reed, insinuating that he had inflated cost estimates to make Inslee look bad and help his chief Republican rival, Attorney General Rob McKenna. Reed is a Republican, and is McKenna’s Thurston County co-chair.

It’s a ridiculous charge. Reed has shown, as much as any elected official we can think of, that he discharges his duties without the slightest tinge of political interest.

He took bitter criticism from many fellow Republicans in 2004, when he adhered strictly to the rule of law during the multiple recounts in the gubernatorial race between Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi. Gregoire eventually won, and Reed’s conduct of the process was unwaveringly professional, ethical and legal.

To suggest he’s behaving otherwise now only reflects badly on those making the accusation. Rather than accepting responsibility for the consequences of his own actions, Inslee is allowing his advocates to damage the reputation of a faithful public servant.

Washington deserves better from a serious candidate for governor.