Pridemore cautiously optimistic he'll advance in auditor race

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OLYMPIA — It's getting down to the wire for Craig Pridemore — Tuesday's 8 p.m. primary deadline is mere hours away.

Pridemore, a Vancouver Democrat who gave up his Senate seat to run for state auditor, is attempting the rare feat of advancing in a statewide race without being from Puget Sound. No Clark County candidates have even made such an attempt in recent years. In 2008, Peter Goldmark, an Okanogan County rancher, beat a Pierce County incumbent in the state lands commissioner race.

The winner in November will succeed Auditor Brian Sonntag, who is retiring after five terms.

Pridemore said Monday he's spent the last few days of the campaign doing "honk-and-waves" throughout Western Washington. He has worked Seattle Sounders and Mariners games in addition to waving to cars and passers-by on street corners in Seattle and Vancouver. (He was at Mill Plain and Interstate 5 in Vancouver last Friday afternoon).

The senator has three opponents today, two Democrats and a Republican. He said his biggest threat is Rep. Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma, who has raised $353,459. That's more than twice what Pridemore has raised — $155,854.

Pridemore said he is cautiously optimistic he will finish in the top two and advance to the November general election. However, he's worried that those who vote on name recognition will be won over by Kelley's cable TV ads. He urged those who have yet to vote in the primary to compare his résumé to his opponents'.

"I strongly believe I have the best résumé for the job," he said. "… I feel very comfortable with spreadsheets and data."

Before winning election to the Senate in 2004, Pridemore was a Clark County commissioner and, before that, a county finance manager.

Though he will spend primary night in Seattle, Pridemore said he hopes to dominate the votes in Clark County.

"We'll all see how it plays out tomorrow," he said.

H. Stuart Elway, president of Elway Research, Inc., said his polls showed that in mid-June, 65 percent of registered voters were undecided in the state auditor race. However, 22 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for James Watkins, the sole Republican running for the office. Kelley and Pridemore each got 5 percent, and 2 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Mark Miloscia.

Elway said Watkins likely received the most support because he was an easy option for Republicans. Many people were undecided because the race is somewhat low-profile, overshadowed by the governor's race, he said.