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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington secretary of state race close as ever as candidates head into Sunday debate

Anderson
Anderson

As Election Day nears, Washington’s secretary of state race is as close as ever.

The race pits incumbent Democrat Steve Hobbs against a nonpartisan candidate, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson. Hobbs was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee last fall after former Secretary Kim Wyman left for a job in the Biden administration.

The two candidates will meet Sunday in a debate hosted by The Spokesman-Review and the League of Women Voters. Both candidates will debate at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center at Gonzaga University.

Tickets to attend in person are sold out, but those wishing to watch the debate live can do so at KSPS.org. It also will be rebroadcast Tuesday on KSPS.

This election will almost certainly be the first time Washington residents elect a non-Republican as secretary of state since 1964, though at least one write-in Republican candidate is trying to garner enough support to win.

In the August primary, Hobbs and Anderson finished in the top two spots, with Hobbs getting almost 40% of the vote and Anderson getting 12.8% of the vote.

Three Republican candidates split much of the remaining vote, finishing with between 10% and 12% each.

As the general election nears, the secretary of state’s race could end up as one of the closest this season.

Polling in the past month has shown the race is nearly tied, with a significant portion of the electorate undecided.

A Crosscut/Elway poll from September had Hobbs leading Anderson 31% to 29%, though 40% of voters were still undecided. Pollster H. Stuart Elway said he anticipates that number has gone down in the last month.

A SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by the Seattle Times and a number of other partners, released Friday, still shows a large number of voters – about 30% – are undecided. The poll shows Hobbs 11 points above Anderson, 40% to 29%.

Elway said this race is unusual for a number of reasons, particularly because it’s taking place in a nonpresidential year and it’s the first time since 1964 that a Republican incumbent is not in the race.

“All of those things certainly explain why people would be undecided,” he said.

“I don’t know that it’s very predictable.”

He said the question will be whether Republican voters go for the independent or sit it out.

Republican voters may also opt for the write-in candidate, state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, though his name won’t officially appear on the ballot.

Klippert has received the endorsement of the state Republican Party. Write-in campaigns rarely end in wins, but as of Thursday, Klippert has raised more than $7,000.

As of Thursday, Hobbs had raised almost $695,000 and Anderson had raised almost $310,000.

Both candidates have prioritized election misinformation and cybersecurity, but each has criticized the other for their experience.

Prior to being appointed, Hobbs had never had elections administration experience. He served in the U.S. Army and the National Guard for 30 years and as a state senator from 2007 to 2021.

Anderson has criticized Hobbs for a lack of experience administering elections, though Hobbs has said since he was appointed, he has overseen a special election and the August primary.

Anderson has served as Pierce County’s auditor since 2009. Before then, she was a Tacoma City Council member and deputy mayor from 2004 to 2009.

Hobbs has argued that he has more experience leading large organizations and working cybersecurity, something that is becoming increasingly important in 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.

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