Oct 12, 2022 - Politics

Nonpartisan secretary of state candidate attacked by Democrats

Photo illustration of Steve Hobbs tinted blue and Julie Anderson tinted purple separated by a white halftone divider.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photos courtesy of the Hobbs campaign, courtesy of the Anderson campaign

Washington's Democratic Party is attacking a nonpartisan candidate for secretary of state, accusing her of being a closet Republican who opposes making it easier for people to vote.

Yes, but: Some of the party's accusations are a stretch — and the nonpartisan candidate, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, has aligned herself with Democrats in the past.

Why it matters: The secretary of state is Washington's top election official, in charge of making sure the state's mail-in voting system runs smoothly and securely.

State of play: Washington voters have elected Republicans as secretary of state every year since 1964.

  • But no Republican made it to this November's ballot, after Anderson edged out several GOP candidates in the primary.
  • Anderson now faces Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a Democrat who was appointed last year to replace Republican Kim Wyman, after she left to take a job in the Biden administration.

What's happening: State Democratic Party chair Tina Podlodowski recently tweeted that Anderson's "true color" is red and Anderson has a history of supporting GOP candidates.

Reality check: While the state Democratic Party told Axios that Anderson opposed those measures, in two of three cases, Anderson did not testify against the bills, but suggested changes she said would help implement them better. Anderson also made clear she was speaking on behalf of the state auditors association in 2013 and 2018, and not necessarily in her personal capacity, a review of public hearing footage shows.

  • Regarding the state Voting Rights Act, Anderson shared with Axios a letter she signed in 2015 expressing her personal support for the measure.
  • In the case of adding drop boxes on college campuses — a bill Anderson did testify against for the auditors group — she said auditors wanted to use local data to determine the best locations for new drop boxes, rather than have locations dictated by the state.
  • Anderson has since expanded the number of drop boxes in Pierce County from 27 to 50.

What they're saying: Podlodowski criticized Anderson for recently receiving endorsements from the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, a GOP group, as well as from Republicans such as Rob McKenna and Reagan Dunn.

  • Podlodowski told Axios she thinks it's "distasteful" that Anderson is associating with Republicans "at a time when our democracy is under attack and the two parties are very clear where they stand on that."
  • Podlodowski added that Anderson supported Wyman, the former Republican secretary of state, in past elections.

The other side: Anderson said she isn't trying to appeal to Republicans who deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election, but is talking to voters of all stripes to help build trust in the state's voting system.

  • She said she supported Wyman in past elections because of Wyman's experience running fair and impartial elections — experience Biden administration officials also cited when reaching across the aisle to choose Wyman for a top election security job.

Between the lines: Since 2007, Anderson has given Democratic candidates at least $2,900, while contributing about $100 to Republican candidates and causes, state campaign finance records show.

  • Anderson also took part in Democratic presidential caucuses in 2008, supporting Barack Obama for president over Hillary Clinton, and served as a Democratic precinct committee officer in the early 2000s, according to archived reports from The News Tribune.

The intrigue: Kamau Chege, director of Washington Community Alliance, a network of groups representing people of color, told Axios he thinks Anderson's policy platform is more progressive than Hobbs' in several areas.

Meanwhile, Hobbs told Axios he's focused on making "our elections more transparent and accessible, increasing our cybersecurity, and fighting dangerous election misinformation."

  • "It isn't my concern what my opponent calls herself," Hobbs said.

What we're watching: Whether the race shifts in either candidate's favor in the coming weeks, as recent polls suggest Hobbs and Anderson are neck and neck.


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