Republicans continue to pound Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jay Inslee over the expense of the special election to pick a temporary replacement for the 1st District congressional seat he abandoned last month. State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur called a news conference Monday morning in downtown Seattle to demand that Inslee pay for the special election. “He could pay this bill, rather than stick it on taxpayers,” Wilbur said. Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office has estimated the special election could cost the state close to $1 million. But it turns out that figure is misleading. The bulk of that “cost” is merely a budgetary shift to the state from the three counties involved in the special election.
Posing for TV cameras, eight Republicans supposedly from Inslee’s district joined Wilbur this morning to hold signs and copies of “invoices” asking Inslee to pay up. The invoices were delivered to Inslee’s campaign office, where a sign near the elevator declared “GOP Stunt Welcome.” But Democrats are disputing the special election costs and accusing Reed of exaggerating the figure to make Inslee look bad. State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz pointed out that Reed, a Republican, is the Thurston County co-chairman of McKenna’s gubernatorial campaign. “I think it shows poor judgment on the part of the secretary of state, who is responsible for conducting elections, to be so visibly connected with this election, especially when his numbers appear to be faulty,” Pelz said in an interview outside Inslee’s office shortly after the Republican “stunt.”
It appears Democrats may be correct on at least one point — the special election will not cost taxpayers as a whole $1 million in additional expenses. Rather, the bulk of that figure — an estimated $770,000 — is what King, Kitsap and Snohomish counties will be allowed to charge the state for the special election under a “charge back” formula under state law, according to Reed’s office.