Longtime Franklin County clerk to face first challenger in 4 elections

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMay 15, 2014 

Killian Naval Family.jpg

Mike Killian


A longtime Franklin County official who recently switched parties will face his first challenger in four elections.

Byron Pugh of Eltopia filed Thursday to run against county Clerk Mike Killian, who was first elected in 2000. Pugh said he has always been a Republican, unlike Killian, who is running in the GOP after being elected to his first three terms as a Democrat.

"I have been a conservative and a Republican my entire life," Pugh said. "I've never donated to Democratic candidates. I've never been part of the hierarchy of their campaigns, as Mr. Killian has."

Pugh also took issue with Killian's service in the Navy Reserves, which led him to spend 273 days in 2012 in the Middle East, forcing him to communicate with county officials via email and Skype. Pugh said Franklin County taxpayers deserved to have Killian's undivided service.

"I agree firmly with the Tri-City Herald that he had one job too many," Pugh said, referring to an editorial calling for Killian to resign and run again when he returned from service.

Killian responded that he was able to maintain continuity the entire time he was overseas, mainly in Kuwait. He points to officials nationwide, including state Auditor Troy Kelley, who have to leave for military service.

"Using someone's military service as a campaign issue is un-American in my mind," Killian said.

Pugh served as interim clerk of Benton County Clerk's Office after E. Kay Staples resigned in January 2005. But county commissioners opted to name Josie Delvin to the post despite Pugh being endorsed by the Benton County Republican Central Committee. Delvin defeated Pugh in the Republican primary later that year.

Pugh had worked as chief deputy clerk under Staples. Pugh also has worked as a paralegal for 12 years and taught paralegal classes at Columbia Basin College. He said he would objectively keep county records if elected.

"I think the voters of Franklin County deserve the option for a change," he said. "I think there has developed a sense of entitlement within the office."

Killian has never had a complaint about his work in 14 years, he said, pointing out that he was endorsed by Staples, Pugh's former boss. He said he has always had support of Republicans and Democrats.

He sees no issues with Democrats despite his party switch.

"I've been in contact with some of them," he said. "They've been supportive of everything."

Another race appears to be headed toward the Aug. 5 primary.

Tony Hillerman, who has worked in the Benton County Assessor's Office for 22 years, said he plans to file today to replace retiring Barbara Wagner as the top person in that office. He would join Mary Phillips, the county's geographic information systems manager, and Bill Spencer, a certified real estate appraiser, in the all-Republican field.

Hillerman has 26 years of experience in assessor's offices and has been Benton County's senior commercial appraiser for eight years, he said.

"I think the good citizens of Benton County need somebody who's qualified to run for assessor," said Hillerman of Kennewick. "I know how the assessor's office is run."

Hillerman would keep the office running in a way similar to the way Wagner has managed it, he said.

"I don't believe this is the time to clean house or anything like that," he said. "The assessor's office is run very smoothly right now."

The race to replace retiring Rep. Doc Hastings in Washington continues to pick up candidates. A total of 10 candidates have filed after Democrat Tony Sandoval, a Yakima inflatable attractions business owner, and Richard Wright of Kennewick, a former candidate against Hastings, filed to run Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gary Downing of Kennewick has announced he will not run and is instead endorsing Democrat Estakio Beltran of Yakima.

Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck is the only one of the eight candidates to file to raise money for the 4th Congressional District seat with the Federal Election Commission who has not filed to actually run in the election.

State Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, picked up an opponent Thursday.

Democrat Eric Kalia, also of Richland, will try to make it to Olympia after losing in his attempt to run for city council last year.

Today is the final day for candidates to file, with the general election scheduled for Nov. 4.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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