Republican Reed faces GOP wrath over recount decisions
On Christmas Eve, Secretary of State Sam Reed took a little of what has been precious free time during the gubernatorial recount to e-mail about 25 close advisers he calls his...
Seattle Times chief political reporter
Reed told them that his role overseeing the recount — a role that meant the Republican would soon certify the Democrat the victor in the race — had created "some very raw nerves and emotions."
"While I anticipate emotions calming down as time goes by, there are certainly people very angry with me now — including some very good friends and supporters," Reed wrote. He closed by saying any advice would be appreciated.
It wasn't exactly advice he got back a few hours later from his friend of 30 years, John Giese, a Republican political consultant and close adviser to Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.
"How convenient to blame 'emotions' for the mass discontent within Republican ranks over your handling of the major legal issues in this gubernatorial recount," Giese wrote to Reed and his fellow members of the kitchen cabinet.
"I am one of those who has no intentions of supporting you in the future either, because you didn't listen."
Giese's e-mail may be the clearest sign of Republican discontent with Reed's handling of the recount. On talk radio, in conservative blogs and elsewhere, Republicans have questioned his party loyalty, his choice of attorneys, his hands-off approach with county auditors and nearly all the decisions he made that led to his certification of Democrat Christine Gregoire last Thursday as governor-elect by a 129-vote lead.
Reed says he doesn't know what the ultimate fallout will be. But one test will come during the legislative session that begins next week. Reed will push a package of election reforms, a move that will test his standing.
"I think there's going to have to be some damage control," Reed said.
"The people who are friends and overall supporters of mine supported me because they viewed me as having the ability to rise above politics and do things right."
Praise from Democrats
His standing among the Republican faithful will not be helped by Democrats who now sing his praises with the voice of the convert.
The state Democratic Party targeted Reed for defeat in the 2004 election, saying polling a year ago showed him with the lowest name recognition of any of Washington's seven statewide officials.
Reed won the race easily. He ran on the same mild-mannered Republican liberalism that had given him five terms as auditor in heavily Democratic Thurston County.
He begins his second term Jan. 12, the day Gregoire is set to be sworn in after the most contentious governor's race in state history.
"I expected him to be more partisan," state Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said. "I think that he adhered pretty closely to the statutes and he didn't bow to pressure from one side or the other.
"A lot of people walked away from the process with a newfound respect for him, and I would include myself in that category, actually."
Reed doesn't get such high marks from his own party's chairman. State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance is uncharacteristically taciturn when asked about Reed.
"No comment," he said at first. "As party chairman, I just do not criticize Republicans in public. I'm not going to get into a party loyalty kind of thing."
Republican officials had already been angry at Reed for supporting an initiative that voters approved in November to create a nonpartisan primary-election system.
Reed said he attended a Republican state central committee meeting in February where members wore pins with a red slash running through his name.
"And every time my name was mentioned, the boos rang out," he said.
Not Republican enough
Now Reed believes the anger toward him is driven by a feeling he hasn't been Republican enough. For example, some think he should have backed the party's call for county auditors to reopen their tallies in hopes of getting more Rossi votes counted.
"There are some people who have been dismayed that I wasn't a Katherine Harris who took the position, 'I'm a Republican, and by God that comes first.' "
Harris was the Florida secretary of state who in 2000 also served as co-chairwoman of that state's George W. Bush presidential campaign. She made controversial decisions that helped award the state's electoral votes to Bush.
Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, a Republican who was Reed's predecessor and mentor, said it's hard for some people to believe a partisan election official can act above party.
In 2000, his last year in office, Munro oversaw a recount that gave Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell a 2,200-vote victory over incumbent Republican Sen. Slade Gorton.
Munro said he and Cantwell joke that if that had happened in another state with a Republican secretary of state, "she wouldn't be in the Senate today."
"We joke about it, but in many places in America it's true," Munro said.
"Sam has been fair"
"Sam has been fair and he has been honest. That's not always easy to do, but it's something you have to do."
Munro made the same point in an e-mail to Reed's advisers last week.
"Some are mad, some are disgusted, some are deeply disturbed, some are frustrated, etc. I too have a bit of this in my bones," Munro wrote.
"But please remember that Sam HAS to follow the law. He raised his hand, looked out at all of us, and took a solemn oath to follow the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and the State of Washington. That has to be his FIRST priority."
Both Reed and Munro come from the liberal wing of the Republican Party, shaped in Washington state by former Gov. Dan Evans. Reed served in Evans' administration as executive director of the Governor's Urban Affairs Council.
He is a strong supporter of legalized abortion and has long been active in the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, an independent group that has worked to moderate the state party.
His problems now with party activists don't appear to be ideological.
Giese wrote in his e-mail that Reed had told Rossi advisers one thing "and then told the court other things on the same key issues in your legal briefs."
In a follow-up a few days later, Giese told the kitchen cabinet of a meeting of about 50 Rossi advisers to discuss what the Republican candidate's next move should be.
"Not one person in the room defended the Secretary of State's office, and it was openly addressed as one of the problems Rossi faces in getting a fair election," Giese wrote.
He said Reed's positions in the recount are not backed by any GOP legislator, anyone in the Rossi campaign or anyone at state party headquarters.
Giese declined to be interviewed about his e-mails.
Rossi spokeswoman Mary Lane had little to say about Reed except, "Obviously we've disagreed with him on several key points throughout this process."
Giese appeared ready to blame Reed for problems he expects under a Gregoire administration.
"Every time taxes are increased, new regulations passed, new rules written by state agencies without underlying statutory authority and economic opportunity is stifled, this election will be remembered," he wrote. "Passions may be cooler but memory cells won't be dead."
Pete DeLaunay, a Seattle public-relations executive, wrote the group that he had e-mailed Reed to ask him not to certify the election last week.
"Sam responded as sympathetic, but says there's a constitutional issue at play," DeLaunay wrote. "I say let the cards fall where they may."
He wrote that if Reed named Gregoire as governor-elect rather than calling for a new election, "the emotions that this matter has stirred will not go away — leaving Sam as a lone wolf vs. a decisive leader willing to take a courageous stand."
In an interview, he said Reed's close advisers understand the pressure he's been under.
"He's walking the line as best as he can," DeLaunay said.
"I don't think anybody was trying to be malicious. I just think there are a lot of people who are very emotional about this."
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, one of Reed's confidantes on the e-mail list, wrote last week that while he has disagreed with the secretary of state a couple of times during the recount, he has never "had anything less than the highest respect for Sam and appreciation for his service."
"Unfortunately some people cannot separate the conduct of a fair and accurate election process as set forth in law from their disappointment with the outcome."
Both parties have been unhappy with Reed at points in the recount.
At different times, each wanted the Secretary of State's Office to take a more forceful role in directing how county officials should conduct the recounts.
Democrats filed a lawsuit against Reed in the state Supreme Court. They wanted to force him to issue statewide standards for reviewing signatures on absentee ballots, for governing election observers and for requiring reconsideration of all ballots rejected in earlier counts.
In that case, Reed's attorneys sat with lawyers for Rossi and the Republican Party who had joined the case on Reed's side. They won, with the court unanimously rejecting the Democratic request.
Less than two weeks later, the stage was shuffled, and Reed's attorneys sat with the Democrats. They argued against a Republican request that King County be prohibited from reconsidering more than 700 ballots that officials said had been erroneously rejected.
Again, the court was unanimous, ruling this time against the Republicans.
Reed said the two cases show he has been above partisanship. But he said Republicans seem to focus on "just the fact that it appeared that I was siding with the Democrats against Republicans in the Supreme Court."
Reed says he understands why Republicans are angry with him, though — particularly Giese.
"He was a major figure within the Rossi camp and he was focusing on the future of that administration. Oh my gosh, what a disappointment that must be. I understand this. I have empathy."
David Postman: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.