OLYMPIA — Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, who oversaw ballot counting in the historic 2004 contest for governor, then pushed through unprecedented reforms in the aftermath, said Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year.
Reed, who is in h
is third term, also fought to bring back the top-two primary and usher Washington into an era of voting by mail rather than in polling places.
“It has been very exciting. I love doing what I am doing,” he said Tuesday.
He said age and health are not the reasons he is ending a career in public service that began in 1969. Reed, 70, battled kidney cancer in 2010.
“It really is a case that this is the right time,” Reed said, adding that he plans a busy schedule of volunteering and community service projects.
Reed, of Olympia, was narrowly elected secretary of state in 2000, a result confirmed in a recount. He’s been re-elected twice. Before that he served as Thurston County auditor from 1978 to 2000.
The 2004 contest for governor between Democrat Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi, the closest and most controversial election in state history, thrust Reed and Washington’s election system into the national spotlight.
Rossi led after the first two counts of ballots but lost to Gregoire in the final hand count, with many of the decisive ballots tallied in Democratic-leaning King County.
Republicans challenged the results in court to no avail. Their effort revealed thousands of ballots were cast by ineligible voters, including convicted felons and deceased individuals.
Throughout, Reed, a man known for his integrity and even-handedness in running elections, endured attacks from members of both political parties.
“Some people said, ‘How could you handle that?’ because I had good friends who were just very angry with me,” he said. “My reaction was that that was part of your job. If you don’t have the courage to stand up and do the right thing then you should flat-out not be in the office.”
Reed directed an overhaul of the way Washington runs its elections, keyed by deployment of a statewide database of registered voters. County auditors now rely on this tool to regularly purge ineligible voters from the rolls.
Reed has worked on more than just elections. He launched the nation’s first digital archives of state records and enhanced accountability of charities.
State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, confirmed Monday that he will run for the seat. Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman is reportedly interested, too.
Reed said he will endorse in next year’s race and it will be a Republican. He is one of the founders of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com.