Nov 9, 2022 - News

Steve Hobbs leads in race for Washington secretary of state

Steve Hobbs speaks during a legislative committee meeting.

Steve Hobbs is shown when he was a state senator. Photo courtesy of Steve Hobbs' campaign

Democrat Steve Hobbs was in the lead Tuesday night in the race for Washington's secretary of state, making Democrats optimistic they might finally win an office that has evaded them for six decades.

Why it matters: A win for Hobbs would cement Democrats' grip on Washington state government, with Democrats maintaining control of the Legislature and all nine statewide elected offices.

The latest: Hobbs led nonpartisan candidate Julie Anderson by about 3 percentage points in early returns on election night, with more ballots left to be counted, according to the secretary of state's office.

Flashback: Until Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Hobbs to fill a vacancy last year, Republicans held the secretary of state's office for 58 years straight.

  • No Democrat has won election to the office since 1960.

Catch up quick: Washington has never had a nonpartisan secretary of state, which made Anderson's campaign a longshot from the start.

  • But the longtime Pierce County auditor managed to defeat several Republican candidates in the top-two primary in August, setting up this year's unusual November matchup.
  • Whichever candidate is elected will serve two years, completing former Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman's term after Wyman left for a job in the Biden administration. Another election is scheduled for the position in 2024.

Zoom in: Throughout the campaign, Anderson argued she is more qualified than Hobbs to serve as Washington's chief elections official, citing her 12 years running elections as county auditor.

  • But Hobbs, a former state senator, said the role is more about leadership than election expertise, touting his experience leading the Washington National Guard's COVID-19 response in Western Washington.
  • The candidates also disagreed about ranked choice voting, with Anderson supporting local jurisdictions adopting the reform, and Hobbs arguing it would confuse voters at a time when trust in elections is already low.

The intrigue: In recent weeks, the state Democratic Party and its chair, Tina Podlodowski, have attacked Anderson and tried to paint her as a secret conservative who has fought to limit voting access.

What's next: More votes will be counted in the election in the coming days, which could shift the results somewhat.

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