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Wyman to resign as Secretary of State to assume election security lead in Biden Administration

Wyman  (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is resigning to accept a job as the senior election security lead for the Biden administration.

Wyman will join the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, which leads the cyber, infrastructure and election security for the country. Her resignation will be effective Nov. 19, according to a statement from her office.

Her departure could provide an opportunity for Washington Democrats, who hold every statewide elected position except the Secretary of State. A Republican has served in the role for more than five decades.

“I am honored to be able to share nearly three decades of experience and expertise at the federal level to support CISA’s efforts to safeguard our election systems from cyberattacks and enhance the public’s confidence in our elections,” Wyman said in a statement released by her office.

Wyman was not available for interviews on Tuesday, according to her spokesperson.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Wyman is “a great fit to lead these crucial efforts at the national level.”

“She has remained independent in the face of partisan challenges and has always done what was best for the strength of our democracy,” Inslee said in a statement.

Over the past year, Wyman became a leader in election safety nationwide and continually shot down claims from President Donald Trump and his supporters that the 2020 election was fraudulent. Despite threats in the past year over their job administering elections, Wyman and other elections officials remained outspoken against the claims. She criticized calls for a “forensic audit” of 2020 election ballots in Maricopa County in Arizona.

In her role at CISA, Wyman will lead the department’s efforts to protect future elections from foreign and domestic interference. She will work with elections officials across the country to provide support and resources to protect election infrastructure.

“It will be a huge benefit for this entire nation for having her be the face for election security and election integrity,” Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said.

Inslee, a Democrat, will appoint a replacement for Wyman who will serve until the November 2022 general election. The replacement does not have to be within Wyman’s same political party. The position will then appear on the 2022 general election ballot, and the winner will serve the remaining of Wyman’s term, which was set to end in 2024.

Inslee said in a statement he will appoint a replacement in the coming weeks, but his office did not share who might be on the list of possibilities.

State Republican party chair Caleb Heimlich said he hopes Inslee would follow in the voters’ footsteps and choose a Republican as Wyman’s replacement. He added he does not want Inslee to play partisan politics, which would be “a real insult.”

Heimlich offered up a Republican county auditor as a possible place to start.

If Inslee chooses a Democrat, it will be the first time since 1964 that a Republican is not holding the office.

“The voters have trusted Republicans in that office for a long time,” he said.

Voters value a check and balance system, Heimlich said, and don’t want all of the top positions in the state run by the same party.

If Inslee does not choose a Republican, Heimlich said the party will look to find a “capable and good candidate to run.” In the past, the party has chosen credible candidates to lead what he calls an administrative and professional office, and that’s what they will continue to do.

Dalton said Wyman’s replacement needs to be somebody who has a good understanding of the processes of elections as a service, not from a partisan viewpoint. She said she wants to see somebody who has a background as being collaborative with county auditors.

“When it comes to fulfilling the function of that office, county auditors have some expectations and really good insight into what is needed to hold that office,” she said.

Wyman has left a “big impact” on the state’s electoral process, Heimlich said, but her departure is “obviously disappointing news.”

Wyman was elected as Secretary of State in 2012 and previously served as the Thurston County auditor. In her statement announcing her resignation, Wyman pointed to her experience as a state and county elections administrator while Washington expanded vote-by-mail statewide, installed 500 ballot drop boxes, implemented same-day, and automatic voter registration and enabled 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote.

Dalton said Wyman always made it clear she served all voters of the state, not just the Republican voters of the state, and she’ll do the same thing at the national level.

“We can all work together to make elections functional and safe and secure, regardless of any political party affiliation,” Dalton said. “It’s not about partisanship. This is about ensuring every voter has the opportunity … to have their ballot counted properly, the way they want it to be.”

In a statement, CISA Director Jen Easterly said Wyman was “uniquely qualified” for this role.

“Her decades of experience, unparalleled expertise, and unimpeachable integrity have earned her bipartisan respect at every level of government,” Easterly said. “Kim’s deep knowledge of state and county government will strengthen our partnerships with state and local officials and enable us to expand our outreach to smaller election jurisdictions and private sector partners.”

In a statement on Twitter, Wyman said the most difficult part of accepting the new job was leaving the Secretary of State’s office before the end of her term.

“However, the threats to our country’s elections system continue each day and they must be met with a combined effort by IT and cybersecurity experts alongside election professionals at the local, state, and federal level,” she wrote. “The goal is clear: We must protect and defend the Constitutional pillar of our republic – elections.”

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.