OLYMPIA — Secretary of State Steve Hobbs clung to a slight lead over Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson on Nov. 8 as the former state senator bids to continue serving as Washington’s chief elections officer.
Hobbs, a moderate Democrat from Lake Stevens, held a 50.0% to 46.9% advantage on Anderson, of Tacoma, who was bidding to become Washington’s first nonpartisan secretary of state.
Roughly 3.1% cast ballots for a write-in. It is likely many were for Brad Klippert, a Republican state lawmaker, who mounted a late drive as a write-in candidate and was endorsed by the state Republican Party.
Whoever wins will be the first non-Republican elected to this job since the mid-1960s.
Polling ahead of Tuesday’s election suggested a large swath of the electorate knew little about either candidate, and among those who did they were undecided on who would get their vote.
Hobbs, 52, is the first person of color to serve as secretary of state. He was in his fourth term in the state Senate when he was appointed to the post by Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee after Kim Wyman, a Republican, left to work in the Biden administration. She was the fifth consecutive Republican to hold the office in Washington dating back to 1965.
Anderson, 57, was first elected to the nonpartisan county auditor post in 2009. She won her first full term in 2010 and has been re-elected twice with opposition. She’s also a former Tacoma City Council member.
On the campaign trail, Hobbs and Anderson said they backed moving the statewide primary to an earlier date and ensuring additional audits of batches of ballots are done in every county as now occurs in Pierce and Snohomish. They vowed to do more to combat election misinformation.
Anderson, who entered as the underdog, cast Hobbs as “an inexperienced political appointee” whose Democratic Party ties make him susceptible to partisan influence in the office. As a nonpartisan candidate, she said she would be free from partisan influence in the office that oversees elections.
She contended that as an election professional she could more effectively counter claims of fraud and bolster voter confidence because of her deeper understanding of what goes in to conducting elections.
Hobbs countered that party labels don’t matter. What matters is “what person you have in the office,” he said.
As to experience, he said several elections have gone off without a hitch in his tenure. In that time, his office had dealt with attempted hacks, cyber break-ins and misinformation campaigns. He said his military service — he’s a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard — provides him experience to tackle those issues that Anderson lacks in those areas.
The winner will serve the remaining two years of Wyman’s term and earn $136,996 a year.