Waite has leg up in GOP-only treasurer race

Washington voters are trying something a bit different this fall. In selecting a new state treasurer to replace a 60-year succession of Democrats in that office, they are choosing between two Republicans.

Due to the state’s top-two primary rules, which let the two top vote-getters advance regardless of party affiliation, Michael Waite and Duane Davidson beat out a larger field of Democrats who split the vote.

The upshot is that for the first time in history, our voters will be deciding between two members of the same political party in a statewide race.

Waite and Davidson have financial backgrounds; both are well-qualified to do the job. We recommend Waite, an outsider, because he could be a modernizing force for state government.

Waite, 39, is a marathon runner and investment executive and his striking accent reveals immediately that he is from Australia. He came to this country as a tennis pro, attended college, became a U.S. citizen, and now is a senior vice president for investment firm Bentall Kennedy; he had been head of accounting for the Cascade Investment, which oversaw funds for Bill and Melinda Gates.

Davidson, 57, is a longtime elected treasurer for Benton County who lives in Kennewick. He has a keen, firsthand knowledge of the needs of local governments, which collect taxes locally and turn them over to the Treasurer’s Office for investing, safekeeping, and disbursement. He is a former assistant state auditor.

Davidson proudly cites his endorsement by every Republican and Democratic county treasurer, as well as former governor Dan Evans, Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Wyman’s predecessor, Sam Reed. Waite, on the other hand, is backed by Republican and former attorney general Rob McKenna, conservative Democrat and ex-state auditor Brian Sonntag, and numerous current and former Republican lawmakers.

We could support either candidate, and Davidson would be the traditional choice. He advocates transparency in the handling of others’ money as well as ensuring public assets are liquid and safe before concerning himself with yield.

Waite wants to better decode state reports for lawmakers and the public. He sees a chance to upgrade technology; as a member of the Washington State Investment Board he as treasurer would advocate for lower overhead and better returns on the $108.5 billion it invests for state pensions and other accounts.

Waite has worked for firms managing up to $70 billion in assets. His fresh private sector skills should bring new thinking to the office. He deserves support.