You have to wonder what the Republicans were thinking about the elective office of King County elections chief. Were they thinking they'd somehow easily win it and thereby gain the keys to the kingdom (as it were)?
State Senator Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who ran for the job, seemed to have thought so. Her reaction to the candidacy - and Republican Party endorsement - of another Republican, former King County Councilmember David Irons, was: "It's almost like they have a death wish," and called him a "spoiler." (Which seems ironic, since it was Irons who came in second place, substantially ahead of Roach.)
The fact that King County is majority Democratic certainly helped the appointed elections director - and winner of the election on Tuesday, Sherril Huff. She was appointed in 2007 by Executive Ron Sims, a Democrat, and got support from the county's Democratic organization. The guess here, though, is that this was less important than her incumbency and her background in elections, at Kitsap County as well as King. Voters tend not to oust incumbents unless they have a strong reason to; the Seattle Times concluded, "Huff is credited with cleaning up the operation and dramatically improving organizational and cultural climate in elections. The proof was in the latest election. King County produced a much smoother election in 2008 than it did in 2004 and Huff gets a lot of credit."
If you assume a Huff v. single Republican result, that wouldn't have done the job; Huff took 44.0% (not shabby for a marginally-known first-time candidate in a six-way race), while Irons and Roach together took 36%. the rest went to three minor candidates.
It's hard not to look on this result as a referendum on whether King County elections are being run decently. The voters, at least the 15% of registrants who voted Tuesday, seem to have concluded they are.