King County assessor race is all about name and message | Bob Roegner

The assessor’s office is a low-key King County agency that is usually only noticed around Valentine’s Day when the annual assessed value cards go out to property owners.

But the past two years, its visibility has increased significantly with two major controversies.

First, as a by-product of a hot market, property values went sky high two years ago, but didn’t reflect last year’s economic downturn fast enough, which resulted in a significant number of appeals by homeowners. Usually, the assessed value lags behind the market value, but this past year, that scenario reversed itself. The department quickly refigured its models and was able to adjust many values. But with the economy still somewhat stagnant, the agency has been under continued public scrutiny.

Then earlier this year, longtime incumbent assessor Scott Noble was convicted of a felony assault and DUI, and resigned from office.

Noble’s chief deputy, Rich Medved, assumed the position of assessor on a temporary basis and announced his plans to run for the remaining two years of Noble’s term. Former Seattle treasurer and current Port Commissioner Lloyd Hara also announced his candidacy. In a tragic twist, Medved suffered a stroke and dropped out of the race. Former legislator Gene Lux, accountant Bob Blanchard, private appraiser Graham Albertini and former department appraiser Bob Rosenberger then joined the race.

Some political observers believe that after 16 years of Noble’s leadership, the fresh point of view that Hara brings may be needed. His technical and managerial background was also mentioned as an asset. Insiders note his lack of appraisal experience as an issue; however, they suggest it isn’t essential for what is primarily a management position. Hara also has experience campaigning successfully county-wide and is well known in Democratic politics.

Gene Lux served in the state Legislature several years ago. He previously served on the board that hears property owners’ appeals of their values. This background would be helpful to him, but he faces an uphill battle with his late entrance into the field. He hasn’t run for office in a long time and he will need to raise a lot of money to re-establish name familiarity among voters.

Bob Blanchard is a certified public accountant from the Eastside. He worked for Safeco Properties as a tax manager and assistant vice president.

Graham Albertini is an experienced appraiser and was named 2008 Appraiser of the Year by the Appraisal Institutes’ Seattle chapter. Neither Blanchard nor Albertini have a high degree of name identification to county-wide voters.

The other candidate in the race is Bob Rosenberger. Besides his appraisal experience, Rosenberger also ran unsuccessfully for assessor several years ago. This gives him knowledge of how to set up a campaign, and he has been involved in Democratic politics. But he has no supervisory or management experience.

This race will be a winner-take-all election in November. The key will be who can get their name and message out the best. Hara was out first, has better name recognition and has run county-wide recently. He is well-known in Seattle, which will likely turn out a vote 10-15 percent higher than the rest of the county due to the mayor’s race. At this point, Hara is the front-runner.