Watkins has slight edge over Kelley in auditor race

Watkins is our choice because of his experience in business and with performance audits.

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State Auditor Brian Sonntag has been an outstanding state auditor for Washington.

Sonntag, a Democrat, has run his office in a nonpartisan fashion. His goal is simply to serve the people.

Sonntag has been a champion for open government and a unwavering advocate for efficient government. His leadership helped bring performance audits to state government, which has saved millions.

But Sonntag isn't running for another term.

Thankfully, two strong candidates have emerged from the primary to replace Sonntag.

We give the edge in this close race to Republican James Watkins over Democrat Troy Kelley.

Watkins is our pick because of the breadth of private sector experience he has doing the type of work the state Auditor's Office does.

He also has some public sector experience working for the FDIC as an internal management consultant. He has been a manager at Microsoft and now runs a private consulting businesses.

Watkins ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 against current gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee.

His resume is impressive for this job.

And although Sonntag has not endorsed either candidate, he offered praise for Watkins.

Kelley is currently a state legislator who runs a business that tracks property-title documents. His experience in the Legislature has made him particularly sensitive to the importance of transparent government.

Kelley is qualified for the position and Sonntag praised him as a lawmaker.

This statewide race is generally pretty low-profile and easy going, but this contest has gotten chippy. Watkins has gone after Kelley on ethics concerns. He brought to light documents from past court cases involving Kelley.

The cases all seemed to have been settled, and we don't see this as a crippler for Kelley's campaign. On the other hand, it isn't particularly positive.

The number of times Kelley has been involved in legal scuffles is far more than most folks are ever involved in.

But, in the end, we still see both men as well qualified and are willing to fight for open, efficient government.

The edge goes to Watkins because of his management experience and his extensive background doing performance audits.

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