Open government has a friend in Brian Sonntag, the veteran and much-honored state auditor who fought for two decades to let more sunshine in.
He announced he won't run for re-election in 2012 and previously said he wouldn't seek the governorship in 2012, either.
Sonntag is a Democrat, and that brings up a somewhat embarrassing time for local voters some years back.
But let's look first at what Sonntag accomplished:
He was the first well-known advocate for performance audits in Washington.
These audits track the money, of course, but they also try to identify any potential cost saving and determine how transparent government agencies have been.
The legislators were slow coming around on the audits Sonntag proposed but he wore them down (along with help from newspapers and public advocacy groups).
Just one idea to come out of the performance audits -- a tax amnesty program for delinquent businesses -- brought in $321 million earlier this year.
In an email to constituents, Sonntag explained why he wouldn't be running again:
"It was a tough call, but it is the right decision. At the end of my current term, I will have served 20 years in this office and 40 years in public service -- 35 in elected office. Based on what we have accomplished and what we will continue to do in behalf of citizens, the 2012 election is the right time for the office to transition to new leadership.
"During my service as state auditor, I am proud that we have become strong advocates for Washington taxpayers. We raised the visibility and enhanced the credibility of the office, brought national recognition to our work, put the audit focus on the most risky areas, vigorously pursued fraud, seized on performance audit authority, engaged the public, and advocated giving citizens greater access to their government."
All without a whiff of scandal or partisan pandering.
Which brings us back to that embarrassing time for local voters.
It was the general election of 2004.
Sonntag, a Democrat, was running for re-election and no Republican Party luminary was willing to run against him.
Will Baker, one of the strangest candidates to every run for statewide office, filed as a Republican, a move so repugnant to party officials that they sued -- unsuccessfully -- to force him from the ballot.
As a candidate, Baker had problems. And they were laid out for the voters before election day.
During the previous 12 years, he had been jailed 19 times. Baker was a roadside flower salesman with a penchant for being forcibly removed from Tacoma City Council meetings after refusing to stop talking.
For the run against Sonntag he said the main issue facing the state auditor in 2004 "is attempts by the FBI to cover up the events surrounding Crystal Brame's murder."
(Brame, you may remember, was the wife of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who shot her and himself in April 2003.)
All of this was well publicized, yet Benton and Franklin counties voted for Baker.
The vote count for Benton was Sonntag, 28,170 -- for Baker, 29,705.
In Franklin County, the vote count for Sonntag was 227 -- for Baker, 1,040.
The Herald endorsed Sonn-tag. He easily won re-election statewide.
But Sonntag deserved a better chance than he got around here in 2004.