Aug 3, 2022 - Politics

Republicans could get shut out of secretary of state race

Four candidates are shown from left to right: one man, one woman, and two other men, all in suit jackets.
From left to right: Steve Hobbs, Julie Anderson, Keith Wagoner and Mark Miloscia are among eight candidates for Washington secretary of state. Photos courtesy of dandidate campaigns, Legislative Support Services

For the first time in decades, a Republican may not compete in the general election to become Washington's secretary of state.

Why it matters: Republicans held the role for 56 years — until last year, when Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee appointed a member of his own party to take over the seat when it was vacated.

  • That switch took away Republicans' only statewide elected office on the West Coast outside of Alaska.
  • As Washington's top election official, the secretary of state plays a key role in securing elections, expanding voting access and fighting disinformation.

Driving the news: In early results in Tuesday's primary election, Republicans were trailing two other candidates in the race to become Washington's secretary of state, meaning it's uncertain whether a GOP candidate will make the cut for the November ballot.

By the numbers: In the first round of ballot-counting, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs — last year's Democratic appointee — was ahead with about 41% of the vote.

  • Behind him was Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, a nonpartisan candidate, with nearly 13%.
  • The best performing Republicans in the race, Bob Hagglund and state Sen. Keith Wagoner, were duking it out for third place, with Hagglund at 12.4% and Wagoner at about 12.2%.
  • Another Republican, former state Sen. Mark Miloscia, wasn't far behind, at about 9.4%.
  • It's not immediately clear which candidate will advance to the November ballot to compete with Hobbs.

Context: Under Washington's top-two primary system, the two candidates who win the most votes move forward to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation.

  • That means two members of the same party can face one other — or a Democrat can go up against a nonpartisan candidate — and no party is guaranteed a spot in November.

What they're saying: Anderson, the nonpartisan candidate in second place as of Tuesday night, told Axios she thinks the early results show voters "have just been waiting for a candidate who has professional experience without political strings attached."

  • Anderson's experience includes more than 12 years running elections as Pierce County's auditor.
  • Hobbs, a former state senator, told Axios he expects the November contest to be a tough one. But he said voters appear to be responding to his focus on election cybersecurity, improving voter outreach and combating misinformation.
  • "I feel really good," Hobbs said of his 28-point lead on election night.

What's next: More ballots in the vote-by-mail election will be tallied in the coming days, with additional results to be announced throughout the week.

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