3 running to fill state treasurer's job
It's been over a decade since state voters were faced with an open seat in the race for state treasurer. But this year, with the retirement of Treasurer Mike Murphy, three men are running for the position as the state's chief moneyman.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Allan Martin, Republican
Family: Married, three children
Education: Graduate, San Francisco College of Mortuary Science; bachelor's degree, Washington State University
Experience: Chelan County chief deputy treasurer, 1989-1993; Chelan County treasurer, 1993-1998; joined state treasurer's office in 1998 and now serves as assistant state treasurer
Campaign Web site: www.allanmartin.org
ChangMook Sohn, Democrat
Family: Married, two children
Education: B.A. in economics, Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea; Ph.D. in economics, State University of New York, Albany
Experience: Oregon state economist, 1977-1984; director, Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, 1984-2008
Campaign Web site: www.sohn2008.com
Jim McIntire, Democrat
Residence: Laurelhurst (Seattle)
Family: Single, three children.
Education: Bachelor's degree, Macalester College, Minnesota; graduate work, University of Michigan; Ph.D. in economics, University of Washington
Experience: State representative, 46th legislative district, 1998-2008; economics professor at UW; financial consultant
Campaign Web site: www.jimmcintire.com
With state Treasurer Mike Murphy's pending retirement, his office is the only statewide elected position this year without an incumbent on the ballot.
The three men running to replace him all have extensive experience in public financing. And in an unusual twist, the lone Republican has been endorsed by Murphy, a Democrat.
The candidates are: Democrat Jim McIntire, a five-term state House member and economics professor; Democrat ChangMook Sohn, the former chief state economist; and Republican Allan Martin, the deputy state treasurer.
The top-two vote-getters in the Aug. 19 primary will move on to the general election in November.
While it's not a high-profile race, the treasurer does have a big job: The office manages the state's $5 billion in cash assets and $6 billion in local government investments, as well as $11 billion in short-term assets and $13 billion in debt. The treasurer also is a member of the State Investment Board, which oversees $82 billion in retirement and other public funds.
McIntire, 55, a native of Ohio, gave up his state House seat in North Seattle's 46th District to run for treasurer.
He graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota, did graduate work at the University of Michigan and went to work for Sen. Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., concentrating on economic issues.
He moved to Seattle to get his doctorate in economics and started teaching in 1983 at the University of Washington. First elected to the Washington Legislature in 1998, he still teaches part time at the UW and runs a financial-consulting business.
He worked as an economics consultant to former Gov. Booth Gardner. In 2002, he served on a tax-study commission led by William Gates Sr. that recommended a corporate-income tax to ease the burden of the sales tax.
He still believes in an income tax but realizes it's not a legislative priority. "The state will need to change its tax system," he said, adding that he's never sponsored or voted on an income-tax bill in the Legislature.
McIntire said he wants to grow the state's economy and bring better fiscal policy to the treasurer's job.
As a legislator, he takes credit for helping establish the constitutionally protected rainy-day fund, which sets aside 1 percent of state revenue each year in a hard-to-tap savings account. He also said he worked to more fairly distribute sales taxes collected from sales over the Internet.
McIntire said the state needs more flexibility to take advantage of changes in interest rates for bonds it sells. "When you issue 20-year bonds you have a good rate, but it may not be the best long-term deal for the state," he said.
He's raised about $136,000 in campaign contributions.
Sohn said a colon-cancer scare made him decide to run for treasurer. He said he had planned to retire next year as the state's chief economist, but after going through cancer treatment he decided he wanted to continue in public service.
So he left his state job in February and filed for office.
Sohn, 64, grew up in a tiny village of 2,000 in Korea, enrolling in Yonsei University in Seoul and earning a degree in economics. He later got his doctorate in economics from State University of New York, Albany.
He was the first person in his family to move farther than 25 miles from his ancestral village.
Sohn worked as an economic analyst for New York and Illinois, and in 1977 moved to Oregon as the state's economist. He became director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council in 1984, analyzing the economy and predicting the state's tax revenues.
Sohn has raised the most money in the race, $184,000, much of it from the Korean community.
He believes his role as state economic forecaster makes him best suited to be treasurer.
"I've been through three recessions in Washington and have studied the state's economy," he said. "I'm well prepared for managing the tax dollars and investments for the state."
If elected treasurer, Sohn said he would work to smooth relations with other government agencies, including the Office of Financial Management, and promote a bipartisan relationship with legislators.
Also, he said he would pay more attention to the state's infrastructure, which he says has been neglected. He says the state should explore more public-private partnerships, such as privatizing some roads.
Martin, 54, the only Republican in the race, is the assistant state treasurer and has been endorsed by Murphy. He, like Murphy, believes the office should be nonpartisan.
"When I decided to run for state treasurer it was based on making good business decisions for the public, not playing politics," he said.
Born and raised in Wenatchee, Martin graduated from Washington State University and worked for a banking company writing residential home loans. In 1989 he moved to the Chelan County Treasurer's Office, later becoming the county treasurer. He joined Murphy's staff in 1998.
As assistant state treasurer, Martin oversees state and local investments, bond issuance, accounting services for state government and financial services to local governments.
He's seeking the top job, he said, "because you find yourself with over 20 years experience and feel you have something to offer to the public. I've been elected before and know what it takes to serve the public."
He said Sohn has never invested a public dollar and never borrowed for a public purpose. "He's a very qualified economist and I have a great deal of respect for him," Martin said.
McIntire, he said, also doesn't have the experience of running a state treasury.
Martin claims some of the credit for saving $430 million in building the Tacoma Narrows Bridge by helping convince the Legislature that it should be financed by the state at a lower rate. Lawmakers had considered a public-private partnership for the bridge.
"The state borrowing was less expensive, and that's what I did," he said. "I structured those 10 bond transactions. I take some pride in that."
Martin has raised about $59,000 for his campaign.
As state treasurer, Murphy raised the profile of the office by questioning the funding proposals for a new Seattle monorail, a NASCAR racetrack and a new Sonics basketball arena. He also said tolls would be likely on both highways crossing Lake Washington to help pay for a new Highway 520 bridge.
A bully pulpit?
Would the three men vying for his job be as outspoken?
McIntire thinks the Treasurer's Office is not a good place for a bully pulpit, though he, too, raised questions about the monorail and believes the Highway 520 bridge should be tolled now to help pay for a replacement.
Sohn said he would share his views but not make judgments. "I'd describe the state facts and stop right there, rather than exert my philosophy," he said.
Martin said Murphy made his pronouncements only when he fielded questions from the media. "Mike never came out about projects as a philosophy. He talked about financing, and I think I would have done the same thing," he said.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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