OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Jay Inslee's campaign disputed Monday that it will cost Washington state $1 million for an election to replace him in Congress, and the state Democratic party said the figure spawned from a clear conflict of interest.
Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, who is a key supporter of Inslee rival Rob McKenna, has relied on estimates from county auditors to say the state will pay $770,000 to cover both the primary and general election. His office also wants to spend $225,000 on voter education.
Democratic officials said on the party's website that the figure may be politicized. Inslee spokesman Sterling Clifford was more diplomatic but still disagreed with the number.
"I question the accuracy of the $1 million figure," he said.
Inslee resigned last month to focus full time on running for governor and said he selected the timing of his departure in consideration of the costs. He told KOMO Radio at the time that he "didn't think people wanted to have a $1 million expenditure in a special election."
Reed's office provided emails from county auditors supporting the cost estimate for the state. But the state's involvement in the election could mean lower costs for other jurisdictions on the ballot -- school districts, for example -- because each shares in the overall cost of the race.
So, the total cost to state and local taxpayers will likely be lower than the $1 million figure. Kitsap County's auditor, for example, estimates that the state will pay about $35,000 for the special election in its county but that it will only cost the county another $5,000 to run that extra vote on the ballot.
State law suggests that if Inslee had resigned before March 6, the state would have run a special election before November -- likely increasing the cost. If he had resigned after May 18, the state wouldn't have run an election for the seat and would have simply let the new representative take over in January.
Because Inslee resigned in that window, the state is supposed to hold a special election in concert with the regular November vote. Clifford said that is something Inslee expected to occur.
All of it has been complicated by this year's redistricting process. Inslee's 1st Congressional District will take on a new shape in January, so the state has been forced to run one vote to temporarily replace Inslee under the old boundaries and then another vote under the new boundaries.
Republicans have seized on the complicated saga, with state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur calling on Inslee to cover the cost of the election.