Rival challenges King County elections director's residency
Does King County Elections Director Sherril Huff live in King County? That was the question Friday before the county Canvassing Board — of which Huff is ordinarily a member. Huff's job is becoming an elected position. She is running for the post, and the residency challenge came from one of her political opponents.
Seattle Times staff reporter
King County Elections Director Sherril Huff was absent Friday from a county Canvassing Board hearing on one of the highest-profile challenges of a voter's registration in recent years.
Huff normally sits on the three-member board, but this time it would have been a conflict of interest. The target of the challenge was Huff herself, who changed her voter registration from Kitsap County to King County last month and two days later filed as a candidate for elections director.
Behind the challenge was Christopher Clifford, a Renton resident and Orting High School teacher, who is running against Huff in the Feb. 3 vote-by-mail election.
Voters set the stage for what has become a six-way race when they decided in November they wanted to choose future elections directors. Huff was appointed to the $146,000-a-year job by County Executive Ron Sims. She will serve until after the election.
Clifford told the Canvassing Board that Huff hadn't really moved from Bremerton to Seattle's Rainier Beach neighborhood before she filed as a candidate. "This is a ruse — a very jaded ruse, to plop yourself down and claim you should be able to run for office," he said.
Clifford, who also is leading another recall effort against Seattle Port Commissioner Pat Davis, said he went to the Rainier Beach house Huff is leasing the day after she filed as a candidate and saw no sign that anyone was living there. He put tape on the bottom of the front door and found the tape unbroken each of the two following days, he said.
"There is no intention to live in this residence permanently," Clifford said. "... If this person wins, then maybe they will stay. If they lose, she's going to head right back to Kitsap County."
Huff didn't testify before the Canvassing Board but submitted an affidavit that said she found the Rainier Beach house for rent Dec. 7, filled out a credit application Dec. 8, and on Dec. 9 signed a one-year lease and registered as a King County voter.
"There is no question that when I completed the application on December 8 and then signed the lease (and paid a significant sum) I intended to remain and live at the new home," Huff wrote. "Put simply: It is my home and where I live."
Huff's attorney, Jenny Durkan, rejected Clifford's claim that Huff would simply move back to her old house in Bremerton if she were to lose the election.
Durkan said Huff allowed the lease on that house to expire Dec. 31 and paid nearly $9,000 to her new Seattle landlord. "She also moved all her worldly possessions, and it cost her several thousand dollars," Durkan said. "It's not like, 'I'm going to move my toothbrush and bathrobe and be done with it.' "
Canvassing Board member Kevin Wright, chief civil deputy in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office, said the board will make a ruling within 10 days. Also listening to oral arguments were board member Anne Noris, who is clerk of the Metropolitan King County Council, and State Elections Director Nick Handy, who will vote only as a tiebreaker.
Clifford also is challenging Huff's candidacy — as distinct from her voter registration — in King County Superior Court. This challenge, too, is based on residency.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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