Aug 18, 2022 - Politics

Washington secretary of state candidates spar over experience

Julie Anderson and Steve Hobbs, candidates for Washington Secretary of State.
Julie Anderson and Steve Hobbs. Photos courtesy of candidate campaigns.

The candidates for Washington secretary of state sparred Wednesday over who is most qualified for the job: A county auditor with 12 years of election experience, or a longtime state senator and military leader recently appointed to the position.

Driving the news: In an hourlong debate, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson argued that she is the better choice to oversee the state's elections than Steve Hobbs, a Democrat appointed last year to fill a vacancy.

Catch up quick: Hobbs appointment made him the first Democrat to serve as Washington's secretary of state in 56 years.

Here were some of the most notable moments from Wednesday's debate, which was sponsored by the Association of Washington Business:

1. A focus on elections experience: Anderson emphasized her 12 years running elections in Pierce County — experience she noted Hobbs doesn't have.

  • Hobbs was serving in the state Senate last year when Gov. Jay Inslee appointed him as secretary of state as the job became vacant.
  • "Here's the choice: An inexperienced political appointee or me … a respected, trusted professional with no party strings attached," Anderson said.
  • Hobbs, meanwhile, said the position was about leadership, something he's built in the state Senate and as a lieutenant commander in the Washington National Guard.
  • Anderson countered that county auditors like her have ample experience leading, too.

2. Clash over ranked choice voting: Hobbs said the process in which voters rank candidates in order of preference would be confusing for voters, especially those with developmental disabilities or for whom English is not a first language.

  • The new system also could fuel conspiracy theories from those who already distrust the state's elections, he added.
  • “With the amount of misinformation and distrust going on, I don’t think we should go to ranked-choice voting,” Hobbs said.
  • Anderson, meanwhile, said ranked-choice voting is coming whether state officials like it or not.
  • She's supportive of a bill in the Legislature to let local cities and counties implement the voting reform if they choose.

3. The value of lived experience: Hobbs, who is Asian American, said it's "about time" a person of color served as secretary of state. All past officeholders have been white — and Washington's other eight statewide elected officials are white.

  • He said it’s important Washington voters have someone in the secretary of state’s office that has experienced discrimination and racism firsthand, like he has.
  • Anderson, who is white, said she realizes she has “privileged status,” and was very sorry for the racism Hobbs said he and his family had experienced.
  • She added she has listened to advice from people from underrepresented communities to develop programs like providing voting assistance at county libraries.

What's next: The general election is Nov. 8 — and ballots will go out in the mail in October.

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