Western Washington’s monopoly on statewide executive offices ends Jan. 9.
That’s when Kennewick Republican Duane Davidson becomes the new state treasurer.
Davidson is the first Tri-Citian in recent memory elected to statewide executive office, and the first Eastern Washington resident since a Grant County Democrat, Robert O’Brien, left the same state office in 1989.
Davidson, Benton County’s treasurer for 13 years, also will be one of few Republicans in an executive state office on the West Coast.
Before this month’s election, Washington Auditor Kim Wyman was the only Republican serving in an executive office in Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii. All are dominated by Democrats or, in Alaska’s case, independent nonpartisans.
In Oregon, Dennis Richardson will be the first Republican statewide executive office holder in 14 years when he is sworn in as secretary of state.
It’s really important. As anyone who lives in Eastern Washington and pays attention to the state party knows, this has been one of my most important efforts, to include our wonderful folks in Eastern Washington into everything we do.
Susan Hutchison, Washington State Republican Party
Susan Hutchison, head of the Washington State Republican Party, called Davidson’s victory a breakthrough for geographic and political diversity that could bolster Republican candidates’ chances for election in the future.
“It’s really important. As anyone who lives in Eastern Washington and pays attention to the state party knows, this has been one of my most important efforts, to include our wonderful folks in Eastern Washington into everything we do,” she said.
Voters decided in August that the next treasurer would be a Republican, when Davidson and Seattle Republican Michael Waite emerged as the top two finishers in the primary. On Nov. 8, Davidson defeated Waite with 58 percent of the vote out of almost 2.5 million ballots cast.
His long record as an auditor and elected treasurer in Benton County, coupled with three terms as president of the Washington State Association of County Treasurers, helped secure broad support. Thirty-five of his fellow county treasurers endorsed his bid, as did almost every newspaper giving endorsements, including the Tri-City Herald.
As state treasurer, Davidson will oversee a staff of 65 and manage the state’s cash flow, which was more than $400 billion in 2015.
Voters chose well, said David Griffiths, Chelan County treasurer. Griffiths succeeds Davidson as president of the association.
“I’m just as proud of Duane as all of the citizens of the Tri-Cities. You’re losing a great treasurer, but you’re gaining in Olympia a friend who will never forget you,” he said.
Davidson spent his adult life in Eastern Washington, but grew up east of Seattle in Carnation, a dairy and milling community near the Cascade foothills.
His family homesteaded in King County, but he recognized the area was becoming a bedroom community. He attended a community college, then Central Washington University to study accounting.
In college, he met his future wife, Kathy, an Eastern Washington native whose roots cemented their future on the dry side, where they raised two daughters and a son.
I’m just as proud of Duane as all of the citizens of the Tri-Cities. You’re losing a great treasurer but you’re gaining in Olympia a friend that will never forget you.
David Griffiths, Chelan County treasurer
After passing the CPA exam, Davidson worked briefly for a private accounting firm, then joined the state auditor’s office, inspecting the financial records of government agencies. He ran for Benton County treasurer in 2002 when the seat came open.
When he was asked to run for the state office, Davidson talked with his wife. Kathy was on the Trios Health board and had her own civic interests.
With her blessing, he announced his candidacy in January. But Kathy’s unexpected death in May threw his plans into doubt. He decided to withdraw.
His grown children intervened, telling him it wasn’t what their mother would have wanted, that he would regret the missed opportunity.
His youngest daughter, Kinzey, offered to delay her first year of college to run his campaign.
“I was rather moved,” he recalled.
Kathy Davidson’s funeral coincided with the Washington State Republican Convention in Pasco. Davidson sent a surrogate to speak on his behalf. Then, he turned his attention to Olympia.
“After that, I was all in,” he said.
Davidson pledges to unite the two sides of the political aisle, as well as both sides of the state.
State treasurer may be a partisan position, but Davidson said the businesslike nature of the job means setting partisan issues aside after the ballots are counted.
Davidson said he will not use the office to push policy. His predecessor, Jim McIntire, openly advocated for an overhaul of the state’s tax system.
“I do believe his promotion of a state income tax has made it an activist office,” Davidson said. “I think the state treasurer’s office should be boring. You should stick to the numbers.”
I think the state treasurer’s office should be boring. You should stick to the numbers.
Duane Davidson, Washington State Treasurer-elect
The Benton County commissioners will appoint a replacement from a field of three candidates nominated by the county’s Republican party. The appointee will serve until 2017, then there will be an election for the balance of Davidson’s term, which expires in 2018.
Commission Chairman Shon Small expects to appoint a successor by early March to lead the 14-person office.
Small is thrilled about Davidson’s victory.
“It’s a big deal. We’re all very very proud of what Duane has accomplished,” he said.
Davidson said his departure is not permanent. He plans to keep his Kennewick home as a family base.
To establish residency in Olympia, he bought a 39-foot boat and plans to live onboard at Olympia’s West Bay Marina.
He toyed with naming the boat Offshore Account, but opted for Accrued Interest, figuring that would raise fewer eyebrows.