OLYMPIA – The unexpected race to be Washington’s secretary of state, following Kim Wyman’s departure last year, could prove to be one of the most interesting this primary season.
Eight candidates, including incumbent Steve Hobbs, who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to fill the spot last October, are vying for the spot as Washington’s top elections official as of last week’s filing deadline.
Hobbs, a former state senator from Lake Stevens, took over for Wyman after she took an election security post in the Biden administration. Upon a vacancy in a state executive office, law in Washington says the governor can appoint a replacement who would serve until the next general election. The winner of this year’s election will serve the remainder of Wyman’s term, which ends in 2024.
Inslee’s appointment of Hobbs marked the first time since 1964 that a Republican is not holding that office, and Republicans don’t intend to keep it that way.
Hobbs will face seven challengers this primary election. The top two candidates will then face off in the November general election. Along with Hobbs, a Democrat, the two biggest politically experienced contenders are Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who is running as a nonpartisan candidate.
Along with the head of elections, the secretary of state’s role includes archiving government records and providing information and access to the business community about corporations and charities.
Hobbs had no elections administration experience when he stepped into Wyman’s role, but as a member of the state National Guard, Hobbs said he has experience dealing with cybersecurity. Hobbs served in the state Senate from 2007 to 2020 and in the U.S. Army for 32 years.
When he took over the secretary of state job last year, Hobbs said his goals were to improve cybersecurity, face national threats to elections and counter misinformation.
Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, said he has worked with people across the aisle throughout his time in the Legislature, something he said would be helpful as secretary of state.
Hobbs has raised more than $222,000 so far for his campaign, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Republicans criticized Inslee’s pick last year. Wagoner, who announced plans to enter the race in December, joins three other Republicans hoping to take Hobbs’s spot.
Wagoner, of Sedro-Woolley, has served in the state Senate since 2018. Before that, Wagoner served as mayor and city council member in Sedro-Woolley and as a naval aviator. Wagoner has raised more than $20,000 .
Anderson was considered to be on the short list for Inslee’s pick to replace Wyman. Now, she is running as nonpartisan, pushing for the position to be independent from party politics. She has served as Pierce County’s auditor since 2009. Before that, she was a Tacoma City Council member. Anderson has raised more than $123,000 as a candidate.
As secretary of state, Wyman consistently criticized those in her own party who questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election. A number of candidates running this year are among those who questioned that Biden won the election.
Wagoner has not publicly disputed the results, but two other Republicans running this year have.
Former state Sen. Mark Miloscia wrote in 2020 that he had “no trust in our nation’s national election system.” Miloscia, from Federal Way, served as a Democratic state representative from 1999 to 2013 but switched parties in 2014 before running for the state Senate, where he served one term.
Another Republican, Tamborine Borrelli, of Yelm, is the director of the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United, which has sued several counties alleging voter fraud in the 2020 election. Borrelli is running as part of the “America First (R)” party.
Others who have filed include Republican Bob Hagglund, a Lake Stevens resident whose campaign site says he wants to bring back in-person voting in Washington; Kurtis Engle, who is running as a member of the Union party; and Democrat Marquez Tiggs.