By Irfan Shariff
Northwest Asian Weekly
Among some of the hottest issues on the ballot this year, the King County Assessor’s race could easily have been forgotten. This is an issue that Lloyd Hara — who, at press time on Wednesday, Nov. 4, was leading the polls — wants to correct.
“It is important that the assessor be a spokesman,” said Hara, 69, who is currently a Port of Seattle commissioner. “It is essential to make information known about the office.”
Hara was elected as a port commissioner in 2005 and has previously been a county auditor and four-time City of Seattle Treasurer. He will step down from his current role when votes are certified.
The 2009 King County Assessor’s race is actually a mid-term election. The official would serve out the remainder of the two years. Scott Noble resigned as assessor this June after court proceedings for a January wrong-way collision. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
Noble’s chief deputy, Rich Medved, stepped in as acting assessor until his stroke in July. Medved, who passed away in October, had been planning to run for the assessor’s office.
Bob Rosenberger, 57, a former appraiser in the assessor’s office, filed to run for the office after Medved’s stroke. Rosenberger was trailing 9,000 votes behind Hara on election night.
Due to a poll Rosenberger conducted two weeks prior to election and before the Seattle Times broke the story of a housing project Hara conducted without a permit, voters were “50/50 undecided” between himself and Hara, he said. Rosenberger said he hoped the housing incident would help him.
“It is outrageous that someone in the public eye [would pull such a thing],” he said at his election night gathering in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
The assessor race was also split by three other candidates. Graham Albertini of Bellevue follows in third with 20.91 percent of votes at press time on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Bob Blanchard, of Redmond, and Gene Lux, of Seattle, are also in the running with 11.63 percent and 4.88 percent, respectively.
This was the first time King County has voted almost entirely by mail. The process requires that winners are certified within two weeks of election day.
Hara, who was winning with 33.20 percent of votes as of press time, estimated that half the votes were in on election night and hopes “the trend continues to hold.”
Peter Masundire, campaign manager for Rosenberger, hopes for a different outcome. “For now, our position is that with only 24 percent of the votes counted, it’s too early to know how the results will go.” Rosenberger had 29.06 percent of the votes as of press time.
Hara, a third generation Japanese American, wants to personally thank the Asian American community.
At his home on Queen Anne, he welcomed a large group of volunteers, supporters, and media.
“Over the years, I’ve had strong supporters from the API community,” said Hara. “Asian Americans are an important element of election successes. It is important to know that we are an emerging force and that our votes count.”
Hara hopes to change the role of the assessor and the office to become an “advocate for the taxpayer.”
“[The assessor’s office] has been an office somewhat quiet and hidden,” he said.
The King County Assessor will manage a $20 million budget and more than 200 employees that appraise home values and set property taxes. ♦
Irfan Shariff can be reached at email@example.com.