State Sen. Craig Pridemore announced Wednesday that he will run for state auditor in the 2012 election and will begin campaigning for the post immediately, while also serving out the final year of his second four-year term.
“I’ll bring hands-on auditing experience, an eye for detail, and expertise in the functioning of state and local governments to this important office,” said the Vancouver Democrat, who served six years as a Clark County commissioner before running for the Senate in 2004.
He said Auditor Brian Sonntag, who is retiring next year at the end of his current term, “professionalized the office and made it a watchdog for taxpayers.”
“I’ll take it to the next level as a resource for long-term reform and efficiency in an era of diminishing revenues and needed restructuring,” he said in a statement.
Pridemore said he made the decision Tuesday after Senate Democratic Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, announced that she would not seek the auditor post. Brown had been widely rumored to be considering the race, but said that because of the ongoing budget crisis, she felt it best to remain as Senate majority leader.
Two other Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way and Rep. Chris Reykdal of Olympia, also have announced their intent to run for auditor.
As legislators wrestle with how to cut another $2 billion from the current state operating budget in the month-long special session that begins Nov. 28, Pridemore said it will be important for the auditor to focus on the pros and cons of ending some tax exemptions.
“We need a fair way to assess both their costs and their value to our economy and to taxpayers,” he said in a statement. “I’d like to make this discussion less partisan and special interest-driven and more objective and data-driven. It’s a great role for an auditor.”
As auditor, he said, “My approach to the job will be to seek results, not headlines. I’ll do what’s necessary to help public officials at all levels, in every part of the state, do their jobs efficiently — to serve the basic needs of the people of Washington state.”
Pridemore described himself as “a fiscal hawk and social progressive” and said in an interview that the executive branch would be a better fit for him than the legislative branch.
“I think the executive branch suits my temperament,” he said. “I’m not the most patient person in the world. The legislative branch is not always driven by fact and logic. I’ve always been comfortable with numbers and I have a strong belief in government accountability.”
Before seeking public office, Pridemore served as chief financial officer for the Clark County Department Public Works. In the early 1990s he oversaw day-to-day operations for a Los Angeles County accounting firm that specialized in audits of local government.
As a legislator, he chairs the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee, which oversees state agency performance audits. He also chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, which considers legislation dealing with the accountability and efficiency of state and local governments. He is the former vice chairman of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee and the past chairman of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council and the Select Committee on Pension Policy.
Pridemore, 50, is a native of Clark County and the son of a millworker and a teacher. He graduated from Fort Vancouver High School and served four years in the Army before attending the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in political science.
In early 2010 he launched a short-lived campaign for the 3rd Congressional District seat, but he soon withdrew from the race, citing a failure to raise enough money to run a competitive campaign.
The auditor’s job pays $116,950.