We are backing our hometown candidate in the state treasurer’s race, but the fact that he is a highly respected Tri-Citian is only a bonus.
Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson is best suited to take over as the state’s chief financial officer because he has the right skill set and a better grasp of the job’s responsibilities.
Both Davidson, and his opponent, Michael Waite, a financial professional from Seattle, are Republicans. Thanks to Washington’s top-two primary election format, these two emerged from the pack as the front-runners, assuring that for the first time in 60 years, the state treasurer will be from the GOP.
Although they both lean red, there are distinct differences in how they would approach the state treasurer’s job. Davidson understands the parameters better, thanks to his experience as a county treasurer since 2003 and his two stints as president of the Washington State Association of County Treasurers.
Davidson knows how to work with lawmakers and get his point across tactfully on both sides of the aisle.
Waite, on the other hand, has no experience as an elected official. He seems to see the state treasury as an investment opportunity, which is concerning. His eagerness to advise lawmakers makes us think he does not fully understand the state treasurer’s role in the legislative process.
That’s not to say we don’t think he is good at what he does. On the contrary, Waite exudes confidence. He is a former professional tennis player from Australia before becoming a financial whiz in the United States. He is used to investing billions of dollars on behalf of his clients, and worked previously for a firm that managed investments for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Waite is concerned over the state carrying a $20 billion debt, and says that as state treasurer, he would work to offer the greatest value for taxpayer money. He appears to have no qualms about offering a financial strategy to the Legislature.
But that’s not the role of the state treasurer — and Davidson gets that.
The duties are more about managing than advising. The state treasurer oversees the state’s cash flow, debt, major investments and the sale of bonds.
Davidson said he would offer counsel if asked, but otherwise he would avoid politics because it is imperative the state treasurer appear to be above partisanship. He said he would try to build trust with Republicans and Democrats.
In that regard, he is already off to a good start. He has several endorsements from lawmakers from both parties. His years of serving Benton County have been solid and steady, with a history of efficiency and clean audits.
Waite expects to be part of the political process and said if he needs to be a financial advocate, he is “willing to go there.” We think he would end up frustrated when he realizes that’s not how it works in Olympia.
Waite would be better suited as a policymaker or a member of the state investment board than state treasurer.
Davidson, though, would make a great state treasurer. He would be a reliable financial steward and he has a realistic idea of how the job works.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Republican Duane Davidson for state treasurer.
Look for our recommendation Thursday for Benton-Franklin Superior Court.