Secretary of state: Wyman; State auditor: Watkins; Insurance commissioner: Kreidler

Wyman, Watkins, Kreidler are top choices for administrative posts

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Almost 12 years ago, Kim Wyman replaced Sam Reed as Thurston County auditor, whose chief duty is managing elections. Wyman is our choice to replace Reed in 2012 as Washington secretary of state, the office that manages elections at the state level.Two good candidates have emerged in this race. Democrat Kathleen Drew has served as a state senator, then as a policy advisor to Gov. Chris Gregoire for six years, when she carved out a commendable record of accomplishment in ethics policies, budget matters and election-related issues.

But when it comes to managing elections, Wyman has a big advantage. As she told The Columbian's editorial board, "I've been doing this job for 20 years" at the county level, and several national awards emboss her qualifications for secretary of state.

Drew has more than just the experience gap to overcome. Another challenge she faces is the historical record. There hasn't been a Democratic secretary of state in Washington for almost a half-century, since Vic Meyers lost a re-election bid in 1964.

Wyman is endorsed by Reed, who has served splendidly as secretary of state for more than a decade.

State auditor — Brian Sonntag is going out with a bang, retiring after 20 years as state auditor, repeatedly winning elections by huge margins, and earning respect for the office's many performance audits of agencies statewide and his nonpartisan service to the state.

James Watkins and Troy Kelley are trying to come in with a bang … a big bang. The Associated Press calls this statewide race "the most hostile campaign of the year," with Republican Watkins repeatedly pointing to allegations of wrongdoing in Kelley's private-sector background, and Democrat Kelley continually challenging Watkins' qualifications.

Watkins was one of two candidates endorsed by The Columbian in the primary. The other was Democrat Craig Pridemore of Vancouver, who did not advance beyond the primary.

Watkins remains the best candidate in the general election, because he has conducted numerous performance audits in the private sector. He has held high-profile jobs in the financial industry and currently works as a business consultant.

Kelley, a state representative from Lakewood, seems to have retreated from this heated campaign in recent weeks.

Insurance commissioner — The Mike Kreidler vs. John R. Adams match-up might look familiar. Democrat Kreidler defeated Republican Adams by 13 percentage points in 2004, then by 22 percentage points in 2008. Kreidler outpaced Adams in this year's primary, too.

The Columbian endorses Kreidler for two reasons: He remains an efficient and nimble administrator in the ever-changing world of insurance regulation. And he understands the relationship between states and the federal government, having served in the Legislature in the 1970s and 1980s and in Congress in the 1990s.

Tips for voters

For an online local and statewide Voters' Pamphlet: http://clarkvotes.com.

To review The Columbian's editorial endorsements: http://columbian.com/opinion. The list is updated daily.For answers to other questions about Clark County's Nov. 6 election: http://clarkvotes.com.